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.
Continue reading

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Another new toy

I like poached eggs, but not the mess of poaching them, and while I do them pretty well, there are many opportunities to mess up.

Well, what do you know? I was looking on Epicurious.com for some recipe or something and saw an ad for a foolproof-five-fork-rated egg poacher reduced 25 percent for Epicurious readers.

Why debate? I just won many $$$ in the RectorFootball pool. A couple clicks and a few days later and that big boy was in my kitchen. There was even an empty spot in the pantry to store it.

First try…

My first beautiful poached eggs — served over leftover chili from the Sierra Canyon Great Balls of Fire Chili Cook-off — was not a disaster. Neither were the results perfect. This egg poacher has an inherent problem; it is not a poacher, it is a steamer. To poach something, one would immerse it in liquid. With this “poacher,” one places an egg in a cup, suspended over boiling or simmering water, so the egg cooks in steam. Big difference.

two eggs steaming

Thus, the whites don’t etherially wrap the yolks, but rather, wrap the yolks fairly firmly. Nevertheless, the result is a soft white with a runny yolk to seep into and flavor each bite of the chili. It’s simply a different eating experience.

On the other hand, this “poacher” does some things a simple pan of water cannot do. Here is a recipe from the instruction manual — printed in four languages — that comes with the poacher.

POACHED EGG WITH MILK OR CREAM
Fill the egg poacher pan one-third full of water.
Mix four eggs with some milk or cream. Season with pepper and salt. Pour the mixture into the cups.
Set the saucepan on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Put the cups in the tray and place the whole into the pan. Cover with the glass lid and leave to steam for about 4 minutes. The eggs might rise a bit during the steaming, but  do not worry, they will collapse as soon as you take the eggs out.
Take out the cups from the tray and turn them upside down on to a plate. Serve with toasted bread triangles.
VARIATIONS
Add chopped chives to the egg mixture.
Add small pieces of bacon or ham to the egg mixture.

I chose to chop a mushroom, saute it in butter and add those pieces to the cups. Pour the egg mixture over that and pop it into the “poacher.”

sauteed mushrooms in two poacher cups

add egg mixture to the cups

eggs plated alongside bacon strips

The eggs jiggled when I turned them out of the cups. I was surprised to find the outer layer soft like a scrambled egg and the center runny, as a poached egg would be. Now that’s a good egg. Yum.

There are other variations, which I have yet to try, so look back occasionally to see what’s up.

 

 

We went to a movie and a swell dinner broke out.

Friday afternoon. “Let’s go see Trouble with the Curve.”
Turns out we had waited too long and it was playing in only one Reno Cineplex, the Century 16 Park Lane, south of Downtown, not our regular Riverside on Sierra by the river.

We left early, hoping to find a place for a bite before the film. Yelp said there were a few places nearby. We knew nothing about any of the places mentioned, so we had to go by name and curb appeal. We passed by Lulou’s on Virginia, which looked very modern and colorful, and opted for The Gas Lamp, a homey looking place, just off Virginia.

Wow! What a find. We walked in before the 6:30 end of Happy Hour, and sat at the bar, so all appetizers and drinks were half price. Better yet, the menu was creative and the food delicious; well prepared and presented.

We each ordered two appetizers — not because they were half price, well maybe — they looked great and we weren’t up for actual dinner-dinner.

smoked salmon carpaccio

I started off with the Smoked Salmon Carpaccio, thin slices of smoked salmon garnished with lots of capers and shaved parmesan, just enough to play a supporting role to the salmon. It was dressed with a non-assertive cream dressing. The grilled breads are very thin slices of baguette, “grilled to perfection.” I stretched those lovely things over my entire meal.

small ceasar salad with shrimp

For my second appetizer or first salad, I chose the Small Ceasar Salad and sprung for Shrimp to go with. It is what you think it is, expertly prepared and as Carol said, “They aren’t afraid to let you taste the anchovies.” (C had the small Ceasar as her first course.)

steamed clams

Carol’s ‘main’ appetizer course of Steamed Clams. I always think of steamed clams as “longneck or soft shell clams,” but these were cherrystone (littleneck). C said the juice was divine, and besides using her ample supply of bread, begged for my last piece of grilled bread to soak up the sauce. All in all, an extra-fine pre-film repast.

We’re learning that Reno offers many, many good local restaurants outside the casinos. I suspect we’ll be back to the Gas Light and pay a visit to Lulou’s, as well. Continue reading

Eat Good Food

Bi Rite Market Cookbook

BI-RITE MARKET’S EAT GOOD FOOD
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:

FOOD
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.

Grocery
Deli
Produce
Butcher
Dairy
Cheese
Bakery
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.

A most fabulous city day

Don’t worry, everything we do is about food…
Turns out we will experience  ‘Nawlins food.

Here we are on January 29, the Sunday between the last NFL Playoff game and the Super Bowl. The sun is shining and the temperature on my thermometer in the shade is 55°F at 10am. Gotta get out of the house. What to do?

our replica brick and certificate

our replica brick and certificate

Oh, yes… back last summer, we bought a brick commemorating the Giants 2010 World Series Championship. I know from recent morning walks that such bricks have been installed in the plazas around ATT park. On such a day, we need to go find our brick.

s_bricks_att

First off, it is just real nice to be out around ATT Park. There are thousands of bricks to look at. In order to move as quickly as possible, Carol devised a scanning method… just concentrate on finding a “C” in the first line, “Celebrate SF 1st.” We started in the sunny Willie Mays Plaza. Not there. On to the Lefty O’Doul Plaza between the Dugout Store and the Portwalk. Nope.

We walked the length of the Portwalk to Seals Plaza. There are more than a few people out enjoying the sunny day by the bay. Parents and kids and bikes abound. Seals Plaza has a handsome statue of a Seal, but not our brick. The walk by the players and VIP parking lots is not the beautiful part of the park… and the 2nd and King Plaza is in the shade. Nonetheless, it does not hold our brick. Bummer. I guess we’ll be in that unfinished circle in Willie Mays Plaza. But its too nice to dwell on “bummer,” we have food in a lovely environment to find, and Marlowe’s is nearby… but closed.

The first rule is stay away from Chinatown on Chinese New Year. We’ll go to Hayes Valley. There’s a restaurant there I’ve been wanting to try, I think on Grove, but I don’t know its name. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the Marlowe clone in North Beach.

“Those are only the two busiest, most congested places in town,” said Carol. “Yeah, but, it’s Sunday afternoon, s_box_high_ceilingwe’ll do OK… better than Friday or Saturday night.” Be patient, a space will open up… people come and go… Grove… Octavia… Hayes… Laguna… BINGO, a woman pulls out of a space on the corner of Laguna and Grove. By then I had remembered the restaurant should be at Grove and Gough.

We walked there and found a glassy building with people inside dining, but no sign… around the corner, “The Boxing Room.” That’s it! As we were seated, I said to the hostess, “This is our lucky day, we found a parking space AND a table for two.”

The room is very nice, high ceilings are populated by interesting lights and chandeliers and the room is filled with light and air. Continue reading

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

a review
Embarcadero November 17, 2011, alone at 2:40pm.

el_title_web

Renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià is widely considered the best, most innovative and craziest chef in the world. In his kitchen, that which was once familiar disintegrates. Each year his restaurant El Bulli closes for half a year—time for Adrià and his team to retire to his Barcelona cooking laboratory to create the new menu for the coming season. Filmmaker Gereon Wetzel closely observes their quest—from initial experimentation to the premiere of the finished dish. In the course of that process, however, many an ingredient is examined in a totally new way. Taste and texture are systematically analyzed: by boiling, roasting, frying, steaming—vacuumizing, spherifying, freeze-drying—and then, tasting. Ideas emerge, are discussed and, finally, all the results, whether good or bad, are thoroughly documented—on a laptop beside the cooking spoon. Anything goes—except copying oneself. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art, El Bulli: Cooking In Progress is a tasty peek at some of the world’s most innovative and exciting cooking; as Adrià himself puts it, “the more bewilderment, the better!” (Fully subtitled)
Director: Gereon Wetzel
Cast: Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, Eugeni de Diego, Aitor Lozano

ABOUT THE RESTAURANT
Revolutionary Spanish eatery El Bulli is a Michelin three-star restaurant in Roses, Spain (two hours northeast of Barcelona); each night, it serves a tasting menu of 30+ courses, prepared by over 40 chefs, to a single seating of up to 50 guests. For the current season, its last before transforming into a culinary academy, over two million requests were received for the 8,000 available seats. Head chef Ferran Adrià, who took over the restaurant in 1987 and instituted the tradition of yearly developmental sabbaticals, has become the leading inspiration for avant-garde cuisine worldwide, alternately referred to as a mad scientist or Salvador Dali of the kitchen.

el_ravioli
MY TAKE – This was good and engaging and very well presented; but to me, this wasn’t about El Bulli or about food, it was about research, development and presentation of a product… it happens to be food in this case. But the product doesn’t look like food, one doesn’t lick ones chops at the preparation or presentation of the food… the only reason I was hungry when I left – it was almost dinnertime. There is plenty of Ferran Adria and his top chefs tasting things and words like “brilliant” “exciting” “magic” “bewilderment” and Ferran once admonishes a chef, “This doesn’t taste good. Never bring me anything that doesn’t taste good.”
As for El Bulli, there are gorgeous pictures of the restaurant and the setting, but never the dining room, never patrons enjoying their meal. I was interested in how “china” is selected/created for each dish, but not a word about that. At the end, the camera focused on Adria as he was served each dish in the sequence it will be (is being?) served to the diners.
Would that we could have experienced touch (since many of the courses are eaten with one’s fingers) and taste and smell.
It’s like a long and critical and loving study of a woman’s face and makeup and skin care, but at the end, you know nothing about the woman, except that her face is quite beautiful and she lives in a fabulous house on the Mediterranean.

“For a foodie, the new film about Spain’s renowned El Bulli restaurant is a bit like an Angelina Jolie movie for a teenage boy… Food lovers can now salivate via celluloid. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a meticulous exploration of how this famously avant-garde eatery comes up with its insanely inventive creations…for those passionate about the artistry and indeed the science of cooking, it’s dangerously close to porn. There are some unintentionally very funny moments, like when two chefs go to the local market and ask for five single grapes for their testing – and three beans”
– Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

el bulli