Sunday, September 30, 2012

On The Noodle Trail

For a few years now I've been on a hunt for the perfect Chinese Noodle, inspired by a dish of knife cut cumin noodles that captivated my friend Shari while dining in Vancouver. I search the blogs and read the reviews and when possible we dash out to try a new find to see if it measures up.
Tonight we popped in to Kam Hong Garden, one of LA Weekly's 10 best places for Chinese Noodles. The tiny fluorescent space specializes in the famous noodles of Shanxi province -- hand pulled, knife shaved and hand kneaded. We tried all three -- or attempted to, along with a few other menu offerings.

These crisp bottomed bao -- I'm still not sure what they were called on the menu (we pointed to another table) had fluffy steamed bread wrapped around a savory pork filling. The pan fried base added a welcome toasty flavor to a familiar favorite.
 Gingery steamed "buns" we tasty and juicy but about the same as in most SGV (San Gabriel Valley -- the epicenter of LA's Chinese food) area restaurants.
These sesame noodles -- though the sauce was a bit heavy -- were springy and chewy and admirable examples of the Q (the Chinese version of al dente) sought for in Norther Chinese noodle specialties. I got so excited when our noodles started coming I missed a photo of the best dish of the night. Combination knife cut noodles -- an unremarkable name for a delicious, chewy, toothsome dish. The best dish in the restaurant and the one I'd go back for. The quest goes on.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Zack Had For His Birthday

 Zack's mother Karen is my oldest friend. We made posters when she ran for class treasurer. We mocked up pages for the school yearbook when she was editor. We shared teenage parties and dateless saturday nights. After all these years we're still working out projects together.
 Karen's son turns 6 on Tuesday. Today 24 if his friends and their parents came to celebrate at a cowboy themed party (a favorite of mine). I love to cook for a party, and being away from home for so long I really miss my kitchen so I was happy to jump in and rustle up a buffet of sandwiches and kid-friendly treats on sticks.
 Peanut butter and jelly boots.
 Grown up sandwiches with prosciutto, arugula, olive oil, balsamic peaches, and parmesan cheese.
 Caprese on a skewer with balsamic vinaigrette. Cowboy shaped turkey and cheese.
Happy Birthday Zack!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our New Neighbor

A beautiful Jersey calf born just yesterday. We call her Daisy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pork And Beans

Beans and potatoes from the garden and thin slices of pork for a fast dinner. I sliced the potatoes and popped them in a saucepan with olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. The beans -- a mix of yellow wax, Romanos, and flashy purple-striped dragon tongue -- were sautéed in hot oil with shallots, garlic, chiles, and plenty of oregano. Cherry tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar turned the beans into a warm salad. While the potatoes bubbled and the beans softened I quickly dipped the pork slices in beaten, seasoned egg and crusted them in a thick, crunchy coating of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, a greta way to use up stale bread. I pan fried the pork in olive oil and butter for a crispy exterior James loves. I topped the pork Milanese with a zesty radish green pesto sauce.
"Don't forget how to make this one," James said while carrying dishes to the sink. Not a chance!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Heirloom Exposition

 These past three days nearby Santa Rosa hosted the 2nd annual National Heirloom Exposition, a celebration and extensive display of little known fruits, vegetables, plants, and to a lesser degree animal breeds pointed at sustainable farmers, organic gardeners, and interested eaters.
 Speakers and films present programs on everything from trapping gophers to tree fruit and berry pests.
 Promoted as "the world's fair" of the heirloom industry, the exposition is sponsored by interested vendors like Baker Creek Seeds, Mother Earth News and the California Rare Fruit Growers.
 For us it was a couple hours wander through endless tables filled with fruits and vegetables I had -- for the most part -- read about but never seen in person. I've been hunting for both a Caville Blanc tree, a highly lauded French cooking apple and an Orcas pear (below), a large fruit variety discovered on our favorite vacation island.
 Our eggplants never really came through this year. I was only a little jealous at this beautiful display.
The holy grail of pears -- I'm still looking.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hiding In the Squash

I guess we are short on lilypads, I found this little green fellow resting peacefully on a zucchini leaf.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Like A Roman Grandmother

Hot soup for a scratchy throat. I came home with a bit of a cough. James still isn't feeling 100 percent. Seemed like a good night for soup -- especially since I had three bottles of homemade, rich, delicious sock in the freezer.
Stracciatella from the Italian stracciato meaning ragged or torn apart is used to describe not only this comforting Roman-style soup, but also (remember this one it comes in handy) chocolate chip ice cream. In Italy chocolate chip gelato is, instead of our chips, more like threads of melted chocolate frozen into the cream base. In stracciatella the soup, eggs take on that shredded look. Though more traditional versions are nothing more than stock, eggs, parmesan cheese (sometimes semolina) and parsley, I added a handful of spinach and a scoop of rice for a more filling (less convalescent) supper.
To make your own version bring broth to a boil and add in several handfuls of spinach. Let the soup with the greens simmer for just a minute and then stir in eggs beaten with grated parmesan cheese and S&P. Some people, like Italian super chef Mario Batali, add 1 TB of semolina per egg (2 cups of broth per egg overall) and some cold stock to the beaten eggs before adding to boiling broth and finish by whisking for 3 to 4 minutes). I just stirred in the eggs and let the shreds form where they may for a light supper soup topped with grated cheese.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'm Ba-ack!

I've been away for about a week and James has been home eating frozen leftovers from our dwindling "fridgeventory." I have to get a few good dinner dishes in before I have to leave again, all too soon.
With almost no ingredients in the fridge but a garden ready and waiting I managed to toss together a creamy, cheesy polenta with a savory ragout of Italian sausage, fresh green zucchini and home-grown cippolini onions.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer Turkey

Somehow I managed to order two turkeys last thanksgiving. Two big turkeys and we had no guests coming. With friends coming for the weekend I thought it was a perfect time to get rid of that bird and free up some freezer space for tucking away an apple pie and for freezing the ice cream maker. It was a great plan, except for the oven that wasn't working (except for the ones where our guests would be staying) and the grill (barbequed turkey was my original idea) we couldn't get together in time.
So I faced the labor day aftermath with a thawed 24 pound turkey in the fridge and no room in the freezer.
I started working on that bird. First I cut it in half and decided to roast a half for our dinner and sandwiches later. Then what to do with half number two? I started by grinding the meat for future burgers and meatballs and spaghetti sauces. I hate to re-freeze anything but I figured ground would make it through the double freeze transformation and take up less freezer space. Done. Because I hate to throw anything away I made a quick savory turkey stock from the bones. Seems like a future turkey noodle soup or risotto ready and waiting.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cooking Cooking Cooking

We've had guests for the weekend and have been so busy laughing, cooking, eating and of course washing dishes there has been no time for pictures or posts. There was polenta and sausages, kale with white beans, french toast with caramelized plums, and hot apple pie. All undocumented.
But I managed to grab a few snaps from our last family-style supper . Braised chicken with capers and parsley is an easy recipe from this month's Bon Appetit magazine. The braise kept the chicken moist and ready when our guests were. The capers and the red wine vinegar (the recipe called for white but we have loads of red) added a much needed tang.
 For a little crunch I ran out to the garden and grabbed the young tender kale leaves off our late summer plants. I cut them into thin ribbons, mixed with grated ricotta salata and topped with a shallot lemon vinaigrette. Super simple super flavorful salad. I'll be making that again.
Anxious to use up a little garden summer squash on unsuspecting guests I quickly sautéed zucchini in butter and olive oil until soft and mixed in some lemon juice and toasted pine nuts before serving.
A simple summer dinner with friends -- a great way to spend labor day weekend.