Sassy Brassica

I know, it’s a stupid title, but it accurately evokes the spirit and delivery of this “instant classic” way to treat cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and their cousins. It originates with David Chang and Momofuku as an asian-y take on serving cauliflower which is NOT a traditional or widely grown vegetable in Asian cooking. This, from the Momofuku Cookbook, is the Creation Story:

This is one of the best Ssäm Bar dishes — a staple there since the late-night days and and fine way to dispatch either cauliflower or Brussels sprouts in season.

There’s not much of a story to it: we had a deep fryer, we had vegetables in season that we needed to cook, we had Tien‘s fish sauce vinaigrette on hand, and we were looking for a way to use boondi, a fried chickpeas snack used in Indian cooking that Tien brought with him from his days working for Gray Kunz. They all found each other, and the results were awesome. Sometimes it’s just that easy.

Later we swapped out boondi for puffed rice — which is what Rice Krispies are — seasoned with shichimi togarashi.

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Every Grain Of Rice

My new favorite cookbook is Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. After she has meticulously and faithfully researched and documented two historically significant cuisines in China (Sichuanese, and Hunanese) in previous books, and then researched deep into many other Chinese regional cuisines, Dunlop now brings together some of the best recipes from all of her work while at the same time modifying them (sometimes slightly, sometimes radically) to make them easier for Western cooks to approach and prepare, as well as to bend them further towards a vegetarian ideal while keeping them as delicious (if not more so!) as their origins.

This is really important because for our own health, as well as for the health of our planet, we cannot continue to get a majority of our protein from whole slabs of meat. Not only are we better off eating less meat per dish, but if we no longer demand quantity of meat from our meat growers, they will be able to focus on quality of both the meat’s life as well as it’s flavor. Because of the scarcity of meat across most of Chinese history, most Chinese cuisines use meat only for flavor — protein is provided for in many other ways, primarily through the soy bean.

As a meat grower, and a meat eater, I would never suggest that we stop eating meat altogether, because I believe that our biological make up benefits from digesting a wide spectrum of foods, animal flesh (and eggs and milk) included. But *wide spectrum* means that livestock products normally ought to contribute only a portion of our daily protein intake (the USDA recommends 46 grams for women, 56 for men — that’s about two ounces A DAY). Meat for flavor, or as one of many components of a dish, easily accomplishes this goal, and Fuchsia gives us tasty and easy ways to prepare dishes in which we can do follow this thoughtful path.
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eats… on the road again

Texas in March

We’re off to Texas, and meeting the fam there.



Where’s that?

Well, you want to know more, Google Marfa or the Chinati Foundation, or just watch this site daily.

Oh yeah, I got an app for my iPhone so I can send pictures and words — not that many — straight to WordPress and eats.


Eat Good Food

Bi Rite Market Cookbook

A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking, and Creating Community through Food
by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
A Review

That’s a mouthful of title and the book has the heft to match. The printed hardcover with no dust jacket adds to the no nonsense, brawny presentation.

The authors start with an essay on “Creating Community Through Food.” Here, they explain their philosophy and family:

buy it with thought
cook it with care
use less wheat & meat
buy local foods
serve just enough
use what is left
Don’t waste it.

That was written in 1914, and as is noted on a store sign, it’s still a go-by.

Bi-Rite has been celebrated lustily for most of the 20 years we’ve lived in San Francisco. I’ve been there a few times, due to its reputation, but Bi-Rite is deep in the Mission District of SF and we live on Russian Hill, about as far from Bi-Rite as possible in the same city. Not convenient; so we’re not part of their community. They describe an exuberant community that one would want to share, perhaps we should have made more of an effort. On the other hand, we’re very much involved with the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and the CUESA community.

They go on to feature the products of each of their departments.

Wine and Beer

For each product — such as Beans, in the Grocery Department, or Spring Onions in Produce — they feature a paragraph or two on:

How to Buy
How to Store
How to Use

They further group by seasons for seasonal products.

At the end of each section, they provide some recipes. For example: Orecchiette with White Beans and Chard, the first meal I cooked from this book. Yum.

Basically, you make olive oil, pancetta. onions and garlic into a flavor base for white beans. Once you stir that stuff together and mash about half the beans you add chard, orecchiette and some pasta water to make a fine pasta dish with greens and a bean sauce. Finish with your favorite olive oil and parmesan. From reading the recipe, I couldn’t imagine quite what it was. But after eating it, I can tell you it was Goooooooood.

The wonderfulness of the Bi-Rite book is that you can be a raw beginner and learn to cook and manage your food and meals with this book. An experienced home cook, on the other hand, will find ideas and methods that they might not have experienced — like that orecchiette deal — and learn new things about cooking.

I love it. Buy it. Make that Orecchiette deal; you won’t be sorry.

Food Pyramid to My Plate to Healthy Plate

…to my very own dinner.

So yesterday, I found this in a Kaiser email —

Pretty cool.
Dig in to smart food choicesp_govt_plate

Nutrition advice is plentiful and often confusing. But The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a tool that makes smart food choices a lot easier to make.

In 2011, it replaced its long-standing Food Pyramid with MyPlate, an illustration of a plate that shows the latest nutrition research. Half of the plate is devoted to vegetables and fruits. The other half is reserved for grains and protein, and off to the side is a small cup for dairy.

“This is a big step in the right direction,” says registered dietitian Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD, a senior consultant for Kaiser Permanente Health Education. “The old diagram emphasized grains, while the new one emphasizes vegetables and fruits. That’s an important shift.”

p_food_plateYears before the launch of the MyPlate initiative, Kaiser Permanente created its own food publication: The Healthy Plate. It uses a photograph of a dinner plate, pictured at left. Healthy foods are shown in the right proportions to give nutrition guidance that can be easily understood at a glance.

“Whereas MyPlate says ‘protein,’ we show salmon, which is a healthy source of protein and omega-3 fats,” says Bartolotto. “MyPlate says ‘grains’ but we show brown rice,” because whole grains are a good source of fiber and B vitamins. The Healthy Plate also shows a generous serving of steamed carrots and broccoli—nutrient-rich, non-starchy vegetables with the added benefit of being low in calories.”

I was already thinking about grilling a piece of fish for dinner, it was such a beautiful day. Why not salmon?
I had some broccoli and carrots in the crisper, but I also had a small, lone head of romanesco. I used that instead of the carrot, since romanesco and broccoli are relatives.

Just had some risotto for dinner, so I used my fabulous Iacopi Prim Mateca beans instead. I cooked up a batch on Tuesday, just in case.

There you have it.

  • Grilled salmon with an Asian marinade and sauce.
  • Steamed broccoli and romanesco with a bit of the same sauce.
  • Beans with a few oven-dried tomatoes to kick ‘em up a notch.
MY healthy plate

MY healthy plate

It took a few years for me to learn to grill salmon properly. (But then, we only grill it two or three times a year. Might do it more often, now that I know.) Finally I found this method, and it works. (Note: Salmon was pre-cut in 8 ounce fillets, ate half for dinner, balance for next day lunch.)

From Weber’s Big Book of Grilling
Timing is Everything

Cook direct medium
Make sure the fillet is well oiled and place the fillet flesh side down first. As soon as you lay it on the cooking grate, it will begin to cling, and it will cling tighter and tighter until it has cooked enough to conveniently release its grip entirely. This is the time to turn it. Now, lots of cookbooks will tell you to grill 1-inch-thick salmon fillets for about 5 minutes on each side. Well, 5 minutes is usually not enough time for the salmon to surrender its hold. If you extend the grilling time when the flesh side is on the grate 7 to 8 minutes, the fillet will come off the hot grill easily.

To pinpoint the ideal turning time, check the salmon after about 7 minutes by very lightly gripping the fillet with metal tongs. Turn your wrist gently to lift one edge off the grate. If it is sticking, wait a minute and try again until it pulls away easily. When turned and done, slip a spatula between the flesh and skin, leave the skin on the grate and deliver your masterpiece.

Besides avoiding the hassle of stuck fish, this method, which is sometimes called “the 70/30 rule” produces deep mahogany grill marks on the flesh side, a nice presentation on the plate, and a proud chef. Enjoy.

CONDENSED VERSION… Grilled Salmon dinner
Cook Direct Medium
One inch salmon should be done in total of 10 minutes
Well oiled salmon on grill… DON’T MOVE
check at 7 minutes, turn when ready

For the sauce, I borrowed from a “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” recipe for Asian Grilled Salmon.
For the sauce/marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl (I shake it in a small jar.). Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Spoon the reserved marinade over the cooked fish.

p_dinner_servedNot only healthy, but yummy.

my pasta for we two

to make Spaghettini with Crab and Jalapeno


I have made egg noodle pasta many times over 40 years, probably with the same Atlas pasta machine. The recipes have varied as my influences have varied, but now — as a septuagenerian — I’ve settled on a go-to recipe and call it, “my pasta for we two.” After all, its just eggs, flour and a bit of water, but oh, the proportions, quality of ingredients and methods of mixing and kneading can dramatically affect the resulting noodles.

Going back, James Beard, my mentor for most things cooking, taught me to mix with a food processor, to have the eggs at room temperature and the importance of resting the dough. Most of my early pastas are his, using AP flour.

Time passes…

Bill Buford, the author of HEAT and disciple of Mario Batali taught me the mantra, “one egg, one etto.” He explained that one etto is 100 grams of flour, and later modified his mantra to, “one GOOD egg, one etto.”

I start buying eggs from pastured hens; buy me a kitchen scale and time passes…

Thomas McNaughton of flour + water taught a pasta making class at CUESA, and taught me to use “00” flour and a Kitchen Aid mixer.

I buy me a Kitchen Aid mixer, give my food processor away, and time passes.

The Kitchen Aid manual taught me the paddles and hooks and speeds to use in dough-making. Armed with information and dangerous, I got my flour and eggs together and made me some noodles.

For we Two:my_eggs_flour

4 etto (400g) 00 flour or sifted AP flour
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon water

Place eggs, water and flour in the mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds.
Remove flat beater and attach dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Scrape down sides with a spatula as you see fit. After a few sprays of water, the dough should all came up onto the hook. Hand knead dough for 30 seconds to one minute. Cover with a dry towel and let rest 15 minutes before running through Pasta Maker. *Roll through to 7 for fettuccine… 6 is too thick and a bit tough. Continue reading