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.

Continue reading

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

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

St. Elmo’s Shrimp

The two-week hype leading to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis was in full swing. About the fourth time somebody mentioned having the world famous shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steak House, I said to Carol, “Eric and I ate there on our cheese road trip in the summer of 2008. We had the shrimp cocktail and it was good, but I don’t remember it being SO SPECIAL.”

That same day I got an email from Eric on that very subject:


On Eats, in honor of the Super Bowl in Indy, you should reprise our meal at St. Elmo’s, or maybe try to replicate the cocktail sauce at St. Elmo’s as one of the tapas at your SB party, and write about that?


Well, here’s the story:

Friday Dinner

St. Elmo’s Steak House Indianapolis, Indiana


I suggested we stop in Indianapolis for the night, about two hours to the southeast [of Chicago]. Maybe we could get a tour of the new stadium for the Colts that will open this fall. Besides, I’ve never been there — except passing through on US-40 on the way to an OSU v. Illinois football game in 1960. Stephanie, the Hilton desk clerk, told us we would find plenty of places to eat on Illinois Street, the street just outside. Indeed, McCormick & Schmick’s was in the hotel and we passed at least four steak houses, including Weber Grill Restaurant and the ubiquitous Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s. St. Elmo’s Steak House was about three blocks down and looked local, maybe because of the plain, old time sign. Lots of cops were on the street — something about a Black Congress rally on the weekend — so I asked a cop about St. Elmo’s. “Great,” he said. “Be sure and have the Shrimp Cocktail.”

the cops and yours truly

the cops and yours truly

Our waiter Billy, sporting muttonchops, was really nice and very thorough. But once he had started his spiel, there was no stopping him. That was okay with the “world famous shrimp cocktail we grind our own horseradish daily,” because we weren’t familiar with that and contemplated ordering it. But the, “Founded in 1902 as the country’s first Steak House. Although we are a steak house, for those of you who are not fans of red meat,” I said, “Billy, you can stop there, we love red meat.” But he continued, “,we have a terrific selection of seafood, flown in daily. Our vegetables are fresh, not frozen, from local Indiana farms.” Billy gave good spiel, and good service.

world famous shrimp cocktail

world famous shrimp cocktail

Continue reading

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.


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

Have a Cabbage Roll, Mikolai

Back in the days when “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was new — or at least recent, one of Carol’s favorite dishes was Chou Farci, stuffed whole cabbage.

Here’s what Julia had to say:

“To stuff a whole cabbage you first make a delicious [stuffing] mixture. You then pull off the cabbage leaves, boiling them until pliable, and re-form the cabbage into approximately its original shape with your delicious mixture spread between layers of leaves. Finally you braise, sauce, and serve it up, and it looks just like a beautiful, decorated, whole cabbage sitting on the serving platter.”

We did it — just that way — once. And what a presentation it was. But that method is fraught with peril. One thinks of a cabbage as orderly layers of leaves formed around a core. In reality, the layers have wrinkles that clench to one another, and are a bitch to separate without tearing. Second, putting the head back together and holding it together while braising is a culinary feat of some majestic proportion.

But I like the idea of meat stuffed cabbage with a nice tomato sauce to round out the flavors. So we simplified to a wedge version. Cut the cabbage into wedges, let the leaves be connected at the core, stuff your meat mixture between the leaves, braise and sauce, etcetera. Not as impressive a presentation, but easier by a factor of about 10, and tastes about the same… and nice looking in its own way.

Fast forward to 2010. Influenced by our Ukranian daughter-in-law, we purchased the brand-new Veselka Cookbook, Recipes and stories from the landmark restaurant in New York’s East Village by Tom Birchard with Natalie Danford. From that, we made their version of Meat-Stuffed Cabbage, I call them cabbage rolls.


“At least one day before you want to make the stuffed cabbage, core the head of cabbage, place it in a large freezer bag and freeze. When you are ready to stuff the cabbage… place the cabbage in a large bowl of warm water to defrost.”

This works beautifully; the leaves are pliable and separate easily. Too bad, that in my opinion, the cabbage loses all of its flavor in the process.

Otherwise, the Veselka cabbage rolls are steamed, not braised, and sauced separately during serving.

Armed with that experience and information, I set out yesterday to make my own cabbage rolls. I looked to the more recent Julia Child and the master-of-technique, Jacques Pepin for their inspiration.

my desk with source books

my desk with source books

Indeed, there is a recipe for stuffed cabbage in their book, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. The dish is called Jacques’s Stuffed Cabbage, but its much like Julia’s Chou Farci from Mastering the Art. Whole head, deconstructed, stuffed and reformed, but Jacques uses different stuffing and saucing ingredients, uses the frozen cabbage technique, and uses heavy duty aluminum foil to hold everything together once stuffed. Good for him. He also suggests as a “Cook’s perquisite,” using the odd leaf and leftover stuffing to make “Jacques’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.” THAT’S the way I wanted to go. Continue reading