Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Meal for One

CSA greens: lettuce, purple kale, the leaves of kohlrabi. Cowgirl Creamery Point Rey Blue (thanks Caroline). Parm. Olive Oil. Rice Wine Vinegar. Red Pepper Flakes. Salt. Pepper.

Dolin: a tiny glass on ice.


Why the hell did I wait this long to join a CSA again?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mean Girls

This rainy afternoon, I trekked down to Boston's City Hall to pick up my first ever CSA share. I was excited to see what we had scored and to meet my CSA farmers/providers as well. The City Hall farmers market is a bit small but for someone, like me, who lives in the city and doesn't have access to a car, even tiny markets like this one in a T convenient place make a huge difference.

I joined the Silverbrook Farms CSA. I didn't know much about them other than they had several pick up days and times and the locations were also in T accessible locales. I wanted to join Stillman Farms CSA but they lack convenient pick up places unless you happen to live close by and very limited days/times. I was bummed because my friend Caroline, who moved to CA, raved, raved, raved about Stillman's CSA. Infact, her great experience was the catalyst for me wanting to join one too.

So off I went! I walked passed the four other stalls and made a mental note to stop by each of them on my way back home. When I finally arrived to the Silverbrook Stall, I noticed it didn't seem as lush or showy as the other veggies stalls. Infact, they lacked fruits. I noticed that the other two vendors had cherries and strawberries out. No matter, my CSA peeps won me over with their earnest and friendly nature. I introduced myself to them. They were quick to apologize that there would be no strawberries this week, as had been previously announced, due to the weather but that they were giving us freshly made strawberry jam instead. In my bag went fresh eggs (!), cheese, a huge head of lettuce, kale, chard and an alien looking veggie that looked like a cross between a green turnip and lettuce. I was pleased with my portion. So many veggies! I was a little sad that there weren't any fruit-y type veggies but again, no matter. My CSA peeps were extraordinarily nice and friendly. I'm delighted at the prospect of going every week to see them!

I walked back to the various stalls and stopped by a bakery stall for a company called the Danish Company. The man working there was wonderfully friendly too. I asked if he had any gluten or wheat free offerings and he showed me the almond macaroon and the coconut one too. I bought 1 of each to try. The size of the almond macaroon was a little small compared to Modern Pastry but it was very good as was the coconut one. As he wrapped up my cookies, he asked if I'd be interested in buying gluten/wheat free bread. I said absolutely and that I'd be back each week for the my Silverbrook CSA. He brightened over the prospect of me coming back each week and mentioned that he had talked to the Silverbrook CSA kids about doing a collaboration with them. I said that I thought that'd be a great idea. I bid him farewell and told him I'd be back next week.

I was so happy over my positive interactions that I decided that I wanted to at least check out Stillman Farms booth. They had the first stall and it was apparent that they took what they did seriously. Besides a large offering of strawberries they had maybe four different varieties of beets, plus a freezer full of meat. I saw chorizo and was so tempted to grab some to go with the eggs that I had gotten from Silverbrook. But I held off. The two people working the booth didn't seem really interested in helping me at all. I stood there for a bit and waited. I finally asked the man about some beets. He answered my question but wasn't very friendly. It was clear that Stillmans was like the "cool" kids of the farmer's market. They didn't have to be charming or friendly. They knew they were the poo. Finally I decided, I'd buy some beets and strawberries and I mentioned to them both that I wanted to join their CSA, to which the answer came back, "well we're just so popular..." Really, seriously that's your answer?!?!

"Um no," I said, "I just couldn't make the times and locations of your pick up. I wish you'd do the CSA pick up here". The woman (who was a bit nicer than the man) said something about there being a 1000 something or other and it's just too hard to coordinate. No worries. I'm not complaining. I then went on to explain that my friend Caroline who moved to California was a big fan and she was the one who told me about them. I figured flattery would get me in good with the cool kids.

Not so much. Instead they faced each other and said, "wow that's cool that someone who moved to California is still talking about us". Um, yeah. Hello, remember me? I'm right here. Hello?!

Ok, I get it. You guys are all farmers and that's what you do. But the best way to describe the Stillman farms people would be to call them the Mean Girls of the Farm Stand. They seemed a little stuck up and kinda over it. Maybe it was the crappy weather. I'll certainly go back and buy things from them and give them another shot but I'm kinda glad I didn't join their CSA. If Stillman Farms are the Mean Girls of the Farmers Market, then my little Silverbrook Farms would be the Band Geeks or in Mean Girls, they'd be the Math Team. And well, as a former band geek, I think I've found my peeps.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's Food Related...Kinda.

One of my favorite trashy shows is Bridezillas on WE. It's basically a reality show of Brides who've gone completely bonkers trying to plan their "big" day. I think I love it because as insane as life makes me, I'd never act the way these ladies do. But gosh darn it, sometimes I really wish I could let go and just go bonkers too!

I've watched many episodes over the years but his is perhaps the best scene I've ever seen and yes it does involve food ;)


Bon Chon Chicken is Chicken CRACK!

If it's not already apparent, I'm fairly proud of being Korean American. E sometimes teases me and calls me more "white" then she is. Mainly because I was adopted by a white family and well my name is certainly not Korean sounding at all. There were times when I was growing up and I hated being so different from everyone else in my family. I didn't grow up around many Koreans or many Asians for that matter. And well, as a result all of the things I know about Korean American culture or Korean culture I've had to find it on my own. But there are many things about me that I've been told are very "Korean" without me having to search for it. My fiery temper and fierce sense of pride and loyalty are things I've always been kinda proud of; I've been told often that those very traits are unbelievably Korean. I'm sure that if you look for a connection to any culture you'll find it and so my traits aren't necessarily all that "Korean" but hey, growing up apart from Korean culture means I'll take any connection I can get!

So besides my inherit (good looks, kidding) Korean qualities, I wanted to connect a bit more. My forays into speaking Korean were squash long ago. Korean is hard to learn, dudes! But one of the first things I connect with is food and finding my "roots" via Korean food was a good place to start. It was thru Korean food that I discovered that my love, scratch that, obsession with anything pickled, pungent, spicy and salty was fine, normal even. And so it was that I discovered a new sense of pride in being Korean. Many Koreans love intensely flavored food and as a result many Korean dishes are a big wallop of spice and flavor. No meek wallflower dishes here! I'm so proud to be a part of any culture/race where kimchee is involved. No seriously, I really am!

Another huge source of pride for me is Korean's love of fried chicken. When I started reading about Koreans absolutely loving fried chicken wings and eating them as bar food in Korea as well as places in LA or NYC, I pumped my little fists again in pride, "my peeps rock!".

I LOVE FRIED CHICKEN and I love my friend chicken fried HARD! Usually that means a thick batter but lately I've calmed that need down (especially after learning that triple batter isn't always the answer). But I like a very crisp skin or batter on my chicken. One that shatters or crackles when you bite into it. It's not always the easiest to achieve or find so when I learned that Bon Chon Chicken was coming to Boston, I did a little jig of happy.

Part of my reading included Bon Chon Chicken and how, despite the savory wing glaze that the chicken is coated in, the skin is very crisp and crunchy. I remember thinking, "but how?". Most chicken wings are fried and then coated in wing sauce but what happens is the skin completely softens up. It's still tasty and good but no crackle or crunch. According to the article I read, it's not that Bon Chon double fries their chicken wings rather they fry them at such a low temperature that the fat in the skin is rendered out. So the result is a skin that seems like it's been battered in something but isn't and also retains its crunch. The other fantastic thing about Korean chicken wings is that they are usually served with a side of pickled turnips. YUM! So let me get this straight? I get fried chicken and pickles all at the same time?!? Oh hell, yes!!!

In Boston, if you want Bon Chon Chicken, you have to go to this nightclub called Privus. They're only open for dinner and you can do take out too. It's sorta this amusing set up. I mean, one night we went and had dinner only to leave as the girls in trashy club dresses sauntered pass. The club techno music in full effect. I know, it sounds really odd, but trust me, it's worth the visit!

This Bon Chon franchise has only two flavors for sauce: spicy or soy garlic. The spicy is really, really, really spicy! So be careful. I can usually only eat 1 or 2 pieces of the spicy comfortably and then have to switch to soy garlic. The pickled turnip helps to cut the spice but not a lot. So again, be careful. But also be careful because this chicken is super addictive too. I swear to God, you will be thinking about it constantly. Wonder when you get go and get your next chicken fix. And if you have to get take out or have leftovers, you can throw them in the fridge and not worry about them getting soggy overnight! I've had Bon Chon chicken leftovers cold for lunch the next day and the chicken is still crunchy on the outside! It's like freaking magic or crack, I'm not entirely sure which one yet.

Bon Chon Chicken might just be my favorite fried chicken, ever! I can't help but gush when people asked about it. I wonder if part of my gushing is Korean Pride, who really knows. All I know is that Bon Chon is seriously yummy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cheese Gromit Cheese!

I think that people close to me, as well as not close to me, know that I love India Quality restaurant in Kenmore. I often get IQ for lunch when I'm working at Jean Therapy. I always order the came thing. I think I don't get anything different because I've tried to deviate before and, while it was good, it wasn't exactly what I really wanted. I always get the saag paneer. I love the taste of curry with the texture of the creamy spinach/greens and the chewy, sorta spongey, cheese! It's a wonderful dish full of comfort and complexity for me.

So when I saw a recipe on-line a while back for making paneer cheese at home, I cut and paste the recipe to an email, sent it to myself and archived it. What I cut and pasted is below this post. I'm sooo sorry to the blog where I found the recipe because I can't for the life of me remember where I got it.

In any event, it's a very simple recipe and I was kinda excited to be able to say, "I made my own homemade cheese". So how did I do? Well, for such an easy recipe, I managed to mess it up. A couple of suggestions, so you can learn from my mistakes:

1.) Use a cheesecloth and not a kitchen towel.
2.) Wait until the curds have cooled a bit to dump them into the cheesecloth in the colander.
3.) Wait until the curds have really cooled off to start squeezing out the liquid. E and I were so excited over making cheese that right after dumping the hot curds into the kitchen towel in the colander, she started squeezing out the liquid. This resulted in most of the hot cheese sticking to my kitchen towel.
4.) Make the cheese ahead of the sag. This will give you time to really press it and get the liquid out before you attempt to fry it.

Will I make cheese again? Sure, but it won't be a staple in my kitchen that's for sure. I don't think I was born to become a cheese maker anytime soon. A cheese eater on the other hand, well, that's another story entirely! Also, the sag recipe I got off the Internet somewhere (again can't remember where) wasn't quite right. It called for yogurt and didn't have the creamy mouth feel I was use to. So if anyone has a fairly foolproof recipe for saag, please share!!!!
Basic Paneer

This comes from my oft-consulted copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

You’ll need:
  • 2 litres whole milk
  • 3-4 tblsps white vinegar
You’ll also need:
  • A large, heavy saucepan in which to boil the milk, plus a colander and tea-towel for straining.
The Steps:
  • Place your colander in the sink and line with a clean tea-towel or few layers of muslin.
  • Put the milk in a large heavy saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  • Stir the milk occasionally while it’s heating, otherwise you’re likely to end up with burnt milk residue on the base of the pot (at least that’s what happens to me!)
  • When the milk is just beginning to boil, turn the heat to low and add 3 tblsps of vinegar. The milk should curdle and separate into solid white curds and a thin greenish liquid, the whey.
  • The curdling should start happening right after the vinegar is added. If it doesn’t, add another tblsp of vinegar.
  • Once the milk is separated (which won’t take long, maybe a minute or so) remove from the heat and pour the contents into your lined colander. Most of the whey will drain out.
  • Now, you can either just let the curds sit and drain for 5-10 minutes and use them as soft curds (as you might use ricotta) or you can press them into a solid patty.
  • To press into a patty, gather up the ends of the tea-towel, twist and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Then take your little cloth bundle, flatten it into your desired patty shape and leave the top firmly twisted. Sit it on a board in the sink and top with another board and weight it down for about 3-4 minutes. The weight (a heavy pot, say, or a combination of pots) should weigh at least 2.25kg.
  • The paneer is now ready. It can be sliced and fried or cut into cubes and used in any number of Indian recipes.
The Variations:
  • Having read Jenni’s post on the world of dairy infusion, I thought, hey, ho, I could add something into the milk to impart some flavour while it boils. So far I have tried adding a piece of cinnamon stick and ended up with lovely, mildly cinnamon-flavoured curds. There are lots of other things you could try adding, like bay leaves, cloves or other whole spices, depending on how you want the curds to taste.
  • If you’re going to press the paneer, you can mix herbs or spices into the curds just before you press them. For Indian dishes I like to add 1 tsp of toasted cumin seeds and a couple of twists of black pepper to the paneer but you can choose the flavouring to suit whatever dish you’re making.
The Results:
  • Approx. 250g of paneer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quit Punching Me in the Stomach, Thank You Very Much!

I'm still here! I've been remembering to take pictures of food I've been eating but just not finding the time to post about what I've eaten. Such is life. I'm going to try and do a few posts over the next few days so I can bring you semi up to speed on my food life. Just to highlight: I (very badly) made cheese and discovered a new useful kitchen tool.

But the latest food news in my life is that I recently discovered that I have some weird reaction to wheat. Ok, so I'm not 100% ready to called it an allergy just yet. As someone who once dated somebody who had a wheat/gluten allergy where if he had some he'd do into anaphylactic shock, well I'm not ready to call what happens to me an allergy. It feels disrespectful to those who truly are allergic to such things.

What I have noticed is that if I eat too much wheat stuff I feel really bad; I get stomach gas that feels like someone is punching me over and over again. I also get a lovely rash on my arms and legs (I say this as I itchy my leg, reaction to wheat in the batter of some fish tacos I had on Tuesday, I think).

So being 34 years old and learning that you can no longer eat, with abandonment, the foods you love and grew up with is a big life change. At least, it has been for me. Let me tell you I love wheat so very much. I love pizza, pie, cake, bagels, donuts, bread and so many other lovely wheaty things and have been really bummed to have to let those foods go for the most part. Thru the recent loss of these carby loves I've noticed a few things:

The first thing is that wheat is a damn hard thing to avoid if you try. On Sunday I went to brunch with some friend to a place called the "Friendly Toast". I heard that they made good huevos rancheros and I knew that they also made a lot of vegetarian friendly dishes so I thought that the wheat issue wouldn't be an problem, despite the name of the place being "The Friendly Toast". No so. Everything came with bread and I mean everything! Including the huevos rancheros. They didn't come on top of corn tortillas as I would expect, no they came in top of a big slice of wheat bread. Ok, fine, I won't get the bread but when everyone else's brunch dishes came with thick fluffy slices of toasted cheese or wheat bread, I started to feel a bit like a second class citizen. Clearly toast was a big deal here and I feel like I really missed out not being able to partake.

The second thing is that wheat is super easy to forget about. On Tuesday I went to La Verdad for tacos with E and our friend R. It was a lot of fun and in the heat of the moment I decided I wanted fish for dinner thus ordered the fish tacos. R also has a gluten allergy and was going to say something to me but she figured I knew already that there was most likely wheat flour in the batter encasing the fish (duh!). E completely forgot about my allergy and for a few hours so did I. I ate the tacos without even thinking. Once I got home, I was greeted with stomach pains so bad that I had to get into bed in the fetal position or weakly walk over to the bathroom. Oy vey, it was really bad. In the past, this would occasionally happen to me and I would wonder if I needed to be taken to the hospital because the gas pain was so unbearably painful. And just as quickly as it hit me, it would go away as well. It's really great that I now understand what was happening to me but not great when I forget about it.

Slowly, I'm learning how to manage without as much wheat in my diet. I've become a big fan of corn tortillas in place of bread at home and have found that I can buy a big stack at Shaws for $2.50 and it lasts a long time. I've also discovered Lara bars too! I had to admit I was skeptical of yet another "power" bar but Lara bars are different. They're all natural and taste great. They remind me a lot of the date nut cookies from Archway that my Dad enjoys for dessert after dinner. Lara bars are very tasty but you have to know that they won't really actually taste like "pecan pie" or "cherry pie" or whatever but are tasty in their own way.

And E has promised to come up with a wheat free cake recipe and pizza crust recipe that will knock my socks off. So life after wheat might not be so bad after all.