Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing

Gardening in central Texas is great – and such a change from trying to grow anything in northern California! Here it’s hot, it’s humid, Spring is at least a month of heavy rain alternating with hot sunny days – basically, a little heaven on Earth for all those fruits and veggies that are waiting to take flight.

However, I must be honest… last year’s garden didn’t go so well. There was quite a learning curve for me. This year, though, it seems either I have figured it out, or the plants have. In the last week, I have harvested 1lb of hatch chiles, 15 padron peppers, 1lb of mixed pole beans, multiple pounds of zucchini, 4 pumpkins, and a single 1.5lb eggplant.image

Next weeks harvest should be about the same, maybe more.

So my big job now is to figure out how to use all this before next weeks harvests fills my fridge all over again.

Beans and Eggsimage

This is a simple recipe that seems a lot fancier than it is. I like it for lunch, but it can be used for brunch, dinner, whenever.

Double or triple the sauce to keep the extra on hand in the fridge; reuse it for rice, salad, marinades etc.. Keep the more unusual ingredients on hand in your pantry; they’re so versatile and great to have around when a dish is lacking that unidentifiable pizzazz.

Some of the ingredients sound elite, but most are available at your local Whole Foods or asian grocery stores and – true story – Amazon actually carries all of them. Worse comes to worst, many can be substituted with more ubiquitous products, noted at the end of this article.

Make your dressing first and set aside so you can pay attention to the eggs and beans. Recipe is for 2 people. Adjust amount of beans and eggs as necessary.

Mixed Pole Beans, Soy-Yuzu Dressing, Soft Poached Eggsimage

Dressing 

Whisk together the following; taste and adjust as necessary, set aside

  • Large palm full of Galangal, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon Black vinegar (Kong Yen brand recommended)
  • 1 Lime, juice and zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tableslpoon yuzu ponzu (Marukan brand recommended)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

Beans

  • Rinse and trim ends of beans
  • Blanch large handful in boiling, salted water until slightly tender
  • Remove from water, quickly stop the cooking process by shocking in bowl of ice, then while still warm, toss with coarse citrus salt (substitute coarse sea salt), coat heavily with dressing (saving the extra) and plate in shallow bowl

Poached Eggs

  • Bring pot of water with tablespoon of rice vinegar to a strong simmer.
  • Crack fresh, refrigerated egg into ramekin, small tea cup or measuring cup and drop slow and easy into water. Repeat process for 2-3 eggs.
  • Poach in water for about 4 minutes.  (Here’s a great lesson on poaching if you need some guidance.)
  • Using a slotted spoon, top beans with poached eggs

Finish

  • Top eggs and pole beans with Togarashi (shichimi), black sesame seeds, and sambal

Continue reading “Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing”

Buffalo Sauce!

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Okay, it’s true – I have a little bit of a hot sauce problem. But how can you blame me?! It’s the nectar of the Gods and offers us such amazingly tasty treats as Buffalo sauce! Of course, you can use any vinegar based hot sauce as the base for Buffalo sauce, but I would be wary of telling anyone you used anything but Franks’s. It’s just not right. It’s like using a cactus and the color pink to decorate for Christmas. Yes, it works. But is it right?

It’s almost so easy it doesn’t even need a recipe. Almost. What makes it deserving of a recipe is the little flair you can add to it to pizzazz it up and make it more than just Franks Red Hot and butter. I hear a lot of people say that’s all they do – melt the butter and add hot sauce. NO! You know you can do better than that. And, while you’re at it, why not break out of the box and use the sauce in a new way? Wings? That’s been done. Try something else.

Non-wing things you can do with this Buffalo sauce:

  • Toss with pulled chicken thigh and serve with saltine crackers, celery, and extra blue cheese for a super simple but super impressive party snack.
  • Make the best pizza ever using Buffalo sauce as the base, chicken pieces, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, very thinly sliced celery and – for the win – onion rings right on top!
  • Toss with pulled chicken, and spread between two pieces of bread with cheddar or mozzarella cheese for one OUTRAGEOUS grilled cheese. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping those sandwich corners!
  • Stir Buffalo sauce into sour cream and add to a baked potato covered with bacon, sliced green onion, sliced celery and cheddar cheese

Buffalo Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Franks Red Hot
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • a large pinch or so of each: white pepper and garlic powder
  • pinch (or more, adjusted to your desired heat level) cayenne pepper or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly without browning; add hot sauce and whisk together to blend. Once blended, whisk in the rest of ingredients except for cheese and simmer on low, whisking occasionally until dry ingredients are fully dissolved and integrated – about 4 minutes. Then, add blue cheese and whisk slowly until mostly melted in and smooth.IMG_2048Once done, give it a taste test and adjust seasoning as desired, noting that salt is probably not needed because of the saltiness of both the blue cheese and the Worcestershire sauce.

And then, get creative, and put Buffalo sauce on everything!

Summer Berry Jam, Quick

blackberries

Mmmm! It’s summertime, and that means berries! Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, blueberries – even plums and cherries are gettin’ their business done. So what does this mean? Either stains on your shirt from eating them while sitting in the  sun, juice lusciously dripping down – or jam!

finishedjars

Traditionally we think of jam as this long, outrageous process that our grandmothers  spent all of Sunday doing while darning their husbands socks and making fudge. The truth is, it doesn’t really have to be that way. You can do it with really minimal ingredients, no pectin and in about an hour.

You don’t have to properly can this (or “put it up” as they say) if you will use it within 3 weeks or so. Instead, just let the jam cool completely after boiling it, put it in a container (glass is best) and refrigerate it.

If you are canning it make sure to have your jars, lids and rings prepared and ready, and get your water bath going so it’s all ready when the jam is done; it will make the whole process move much more quickly.

For approximately 2 pints of jam, you will need:

  • 2.5 lbs of fruit (whatever mix or single variety you desire; first time, I recommend strawberry for greatest simplicity)
  • app. 3 cups of sugar, added 1/4 cup at a time, tasting along the way
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • jars, lids and bands (or some preferably glass holder, if not canning) to hold the finished product
  • a ladle
  • a spoon in the freezer (trust me, you’ll see why)

 

  1. Start by washing your fruit well and hulling you strawberries, stemming your grapes, etc.
  2. Any larger fruits (the size of a small strawberry) cut into quarters, smaller, cut into halves, anything as small as a blueberry or raspberry leave whole. Feel free to use a food processor for this, unless you are using grapes (it messes with the skin). Cut all grapes into halves and quarters.
  3. Plop the fruit into a heavy bottomed pot – preferably a dutch oven, or at least something short and stout – at turn the heat on medium-high. I like to smash the fruit immediately with a potato masher or fork, just a little bit, to help get the juices flowing.
  4. Once the fruit gets juicy and starts to heat, start adding the sugar and stir often to make sure the sugar and fruit doesn’t burn.  cookingjam
  5. Add the lemon once the fruit is nice and juicy and begins to boil, and still continue to stir often.
  6. Continue to stir, letting it boil and reduce for 15-20 minutes (some fruits take longer, some take less). To check to see when it’s done, you can do the spoon test:

Use the cold spoon that you have in the freezer and put a tiny dollop of jam on               the spoon and stick it back in the freezer for a minute until the jam cools a bit and then use your finger to wipe a stripe down the middle. If it doesn’t run, it’s good to go. Take it off the heat and get ready to can it up. If runs, continue to boil and reduce, and try the spoon test again in 5 minutes or so.

 Though I don’t strongly recommend it, if you do have any troubles with getting it thick and gooey enough, you can use:

  • cream of tartar
  • arrowroot
  • cornstarch

*note: if you use any of these, use very little and dissolve in water first (make a “slurry”), otherwise you will have lumps and it won’t do it’s job, it’ll just be a weird mess.

Once it’s thick to your liking, it’s ready to jar. If you’re not going to can it, let it cool and put it away in the fridge. If you are going to can it, make sure you have your water bath boiling, your jars, lids and rings hot. Fill the hot jars with the hot jam, wipe the rims clean with a paper towel, secure the lids and rings and get them in that water bath, lid side up, fully submerged.boilingjars

Once the water is back up to a serious rolling boil, process for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the jar, remove, and leave to cool on a towel for 12 hours.

And you’re ready to enjoy! (I like mine on toast with peanut butter…mmmmmm…..)

toastandjam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Pickled Slaw, (Repost, Update)

This post is a recipe from one of my first successful pickling experiences; since then I haven’t stopped. But I still use this same basic recipe and ratio. It’s a great way to pickle. I updated a couple things, but wanted to re-share it and get you all as excited about pickling everything in sight as I am! 

I was recently cursed with bout of the ugliest of flus, spending a week of my life on the couch. It sucked. Seriously, sucked. There were, however, one or two breaks in the clouds where I thought I was feeling better and so ventured out, desperate for some fresh air and to avoid the atrophy that was setting in on my body. One such evening, I weakly stumbled upon the Mission Community Farmer’s Market.


And by golly, what luck of the season (though I already knew), it was perfect timing. The market full of lovely purveyors, delicious pupusas and super scrumptious fruits and veggies. And, of course, as it’s that glorious season for all things canned, jammed, jellied and pickled with an adorable label, my heart let out a sweet giggle when I found this purveyor, Emmy’s Pickles and Jams:

I indulged myself in some quince butter (oh, mmmmmmm) and a jar of zesty pickles (double mmmmmm)…..

I’m going to get me some fig jam next time….

After chatting it up for a minute, I moseyed on for my own jarring (hah! oh, puns…) adventure. I was on the look out for some additions to a cabbage, fennel, onion, and carrot combination…. that’s right. Some additions to…. SLAW!

Mmmmm!

Edging dangerously close to the end of pepper season, I didn’t know what I was going to find – but I did know I was going to snatch up and hoard what I could. I got lucky and crossed ways with some real beauties!

The great thing about slaw / pickled items is that they’re incredibly versatile. You can use just about anything that’s available. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of some or all of the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Jalapenos (lots of ’em, some seeded, some not)
  • Fennel
  • Onions (white, red, yellow, shallots)
  • Green Beans
  • Yellow Wax Beans
  • Carrots
  • Padrons/Shishitos (stemmed and torn in half lengthwise)
  • Red, Yellow, Orange Bells and these gorgeous purple heirloom peppers I got at the market:

with a quick, mild pickle. 

Try this mildly pickle slaw (similar to Salvadorian curtido) on eggs, tacos and pupusas (duh), mixed with avocado and cucumber, in place of lettuce on any sandwich…the options go on and on.

Be sure to experiment with the brine, too, based on what your ingredients are. Sweeter peppers? Make a spicier brine. Spicier pickles, make a sweeter brine by using more brown sugar than white sugar and apple cider vinegar in place of granulated. Or, add some funky spices that you really love. Clove? Extra black peppercorn? Or make it crazy spicy with some whole dried cayennes. Try adding tarragon, star anise, who knows. It’s quick and cheap so you can experiment time and time again.

Here’re the basics:

Prep Your Slaw Veggies:

      1. Chop or clean all the ingredients you chose to use into long strips that
          are as close to the same size as you can get.
      2. Mix them together in a large bowl so they’re evenly distributed. It should
          look about like this:

3. Evenly distribute the mix amongst the jars you have cleaned. Fill them fully to     the top.

4. Follow the instructions below to make the brine and pickle.

Basic Brine (for 2 cups)

    • 1/2 c. white vinegar
    • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    • 3T white sugar
    • 3T brown sugar
    • 2t coarse grey sea salt (substitute regular kosher salt if you can’t find coarse)
    • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1T black peppercorn
    • 1cup water
    1. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then pour immediately over your prepared slaw, in jars.
    2. Let cool until just comfortable to the touch, then seal with a screw top lid. (It’s not necessary to do a proper canning seal for this quick pickle, as long as you eat it within a week or so.)
      3. Let cool, then refrigerate and let sit for 24 hours, then

enjoy!

Tacos, Tacos, TACOS! (and how to make tortillas)

Well, another Mexican vacation is behind me and another reassurance that my heart and soul belong south of the border is under my belt.

Until this trip, all of my adult time in Mexico had been spent Guadalajara and south – I’ve experienced Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Chiapas. As a child, I grew up in southern California though, so I saw Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada. I don’t remember too much of it, except for a few very specific memories: the best beans I’ve ever had (still to this day), half-way finished cinder block housing (I assume taken over for hotels, resorts and timeshares at this point), and even then knowing that there was something special about that place….

 A few years beyond a 12 year old now, southern Mexico has been “real Mexico” to me – whatever that means. You hear it everywhere, but something about it seems true. Many parts of Baja cater to the American tourist; most everyone speaks English and don’t have the slightest expectation of you even giving Spanish a try, it’s easier to find a restaurant dedicated to fried chicken than to tacos, and most things are charged in US Dollars. That being said – Baja Sur is still wonderful. Cabo San Lucas I could take or leave, but the surrounding area on the coast and inland is filled with exactly what the bumper stickers say: “No Dias Malas” (no bad days) – bare, sandy feet all day, distractions from driving because you see a whale off the coast, a general relaxed attitude of “whatever, it’s fine” and once you make your way along the highway out of the tourist towns – all the tacos you and me are looking for.

What do you want? Extremely fresh shrimp tacos with pico de gallo?

Some of those good ole fashioned fish tacos with salsa and crema?

Whatever taco you desire, it’s there, fresh and most delicious! Of course, ceviche is everywhere and it’s heavenly. Some places think it’s fancy for the gringos, and will charge you an arm and a leg – but just wait it out and you’ll find a great place like I did that will give you a ceviche tostada for 20 pesos (that’s less than $2USD).

And with more hot sauce than will fit in the frame of an instagram photo, to boot.

It’s magical.

In other taco news around the southern coast, there’s also machaca:

Machaca is a traditional regional dish of northern Mexico and Baja. I thought it was only beef – and I bet all of you did, too. But it’s not! In and around the coast of Baja Sur (both west and east sides) there is Machaca de Pescado (usually Tilapia) or even Machaca de Rey (yep – manta ray!). Machaca de Marlin is most common and sooo good. It’s Marlin that has been dried, pulled, and then rehydrated and really lightly smoked. Oh and those tacos are out of control.

 (I like a lot of toppings….) (The little red bits you see underneath there is the machaca.)

Of course, Baja is still Mexico, so don’t forget those non-seafood more traditional tacos.

Baja Sur’s favorite breakfast (and mine now, too) is birria tacos. These corn tortillas were dipped in the birria juice first, then grilled on a greasy, steaming, side of the road flat top. Great flavor, piled high with hot sauce at 10 in the morning on the way to the beach. Try to beat that. I bet you can’t.

Or, topped with cabbage, a mix of cilantro and onion and a spicy salsa verde. Don’t forget the jamaica juice!

Alas, sadly (and against my will), I eventually had to come home. Upon my return to the sun and sand deprived bay area, I still couldn’t get enough tacos and so decided to do a little taco party of my own. I’ve lived in or near latin neighborhoods for a long time, so I see the masa in markets all the time and have always wanted to make my own tortillas.

Luckily it’s also crab season here in San Francisco – so tortillas, fresh crab…. I think you know where this is going….

It’s easier than it seems, but making tacos does necessitate some attention to nuances.

Tortillas

For first (and I suspect – 2nd, 3rd and probably 6th, 7th and 8th) time tortilla makers, get the pre-made masa – that’s the masa pre-mixed with water and a bit of lime. Depending on where you go, sometimes lard. The lard does help to hold it together, but that’s more essential for tamales. For tortillas – just get the masa (usually in a plastic bag) who’s ingredients are: masa, water, lime. That’s it.

You must have a tortilla press, too. Some instructions I’ve read have said you can do it with a rolling pin – and more power to you if you wanna try – but unless you’re an old mexican grandma with 40 years of tortilla making experience, I wouldn’t do it. And even then, they don’t use rolling pins. It was hard enough to get it going with pre-made masa and a tortilla press.

With pre-mixed masa, a tortilla press and a nice, hot, lightly oiled skillet (preferably cast iron) you’re as set as you’re gonna be to make some great tortillas.

So get the rest of your basics together and get pressing:

  • If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, set your oven on the lowest temperature (usually 250) and you can keep them warm in there, or wrap them in a fairly thick kitchen towel.

 

  • Make sure you have a few pieces of wax paper (or plastic grocery bags will do) pre-cut to coat both sides of the tortilla press (absolutely essential!)


  • Start with a small ball of masa, about 3/4 the size of a ping pong ball, roll it between your palms like play-dough, stick it the middle of the tortilla press, and squish away. Open up the tortilla press and here’s your tortilla:

  •  After pressing the masa, get them in the hot skillet as soon as possible; keep them warm after grilled and they should be ready to go.

 

  • Re-heat in the skillet or oven when ready, if needed.

Tortilla hints:

*If it starts getting sticky and the tortillas start tearing after a while, try coating your hands in just a little bit of olive oil, or dusting them with coarse cornmeal before rolling them and before taking them off the tortilla press.

*Pressing the tortillas twice can help them from being doughy inside. It depends on the size of your tortillas and the wetness of your masa.

 But you can’t have just tacos without salsa, can you?

 Citrus Salsa

  • Oranges, peeled with no pith, seeded and diced (Cara Cara, Satsuma, Mandarin – the sweeter the better, and a mix is fun)
  • English cucumber finely diced (or, substitue regular, peeled)
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and very very finely minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and very very finely minced
  • zest of 1 lime
  • heavy handed sprinkle of coarse sea salt
  • (feel free to add a small splash of tequila right to the salsa, if you like – try it on a spon first to see….it’s quite tasty)

Start the party with the salsa served on a chip and a shot of tequila beside it! Then follow up as taco toppings.

 Another great taco topping, inspired by an almost ubiquitous spicy cream salsa Baja uses for many of its seafood tacos seen here:

Chipotle Cream Salsa

  • sour cream
  • a couple canned chipotles in adobo, seeded
  • half a lime
  • splash of olive oil
  • coarse sea salt, to taste

 

  1. combine in food processor
  2. glop lovingly on tacos

*you have to do this one a little to taste, because the chipotle can be very flavorful, but can also be craaazy hot, so it depends on your spice tolerance; it’s also essential that you seed the peppers out of the can. Adding more sour cream/crema will help to cool it if it’s too hot.

 

And, of course, enjoy!