Tag Archives: Sarah

SHIRO DASHI TUNA AND EGG SALAD

I have been away from my blog for a long time. We have been doing a lot of traveling, grandchild visiting and not much cooking, but frankly, I had run out  of new things to write about – especially recipes. However, on our most recent visit, Sarah introduced us to a condiment that I had never knowingly tried. It is a secret ingredient at Rich Table and RT Rotisserie, although it appears in the Rich Table cookbook. Sarah calls it shiro dashi vinaigrette, and she makes enough at one time to keep in the refrigerator to season salads, noodles, and whatever needs some added flavor. Shiro dashi adds the umami that the Japanese are so good at incorporating into their foods. Shiro dashi is actually a concentrated soup and sauce base. It may be available in your local large grocery stores, especially those with a section for Asian foods. In our vicinity we are fortunate to have Asian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Persian, Chinese, etc. supermarkets, so it is easy to find unusual ingredients. I found a bottle at the Korean market. The recipe for the vinaigrette is simple, so I have followed Sarah’s lead and keep a jar made up and in the refrigerator.

Now, on to tuna and egg salad. Who needs a recipe for that? I have made it for years beginning when I was a teenage short-order cook. The version at that café was homogenized so finely that it looked like – well, let’s just say it was not appetizing. BUT it kept well for a week on the shelf in the walk-in. To my way of thinking, in a well-prepared tuna salad the canned tuna should be in identifiable chunks as should the egg. (Fresh tuna salad is another story with its own guidelines for preparation.) There also must be chopped celery and scallions – again, identifiable. Then there needs to be something sour. I like chopped salad olives because the pimentos add color, but chopped dill pickles or capers also work. If you have other favorites, add them. Some folks add chopped nuts and/or apples. I am not a fan of those, but if you like them, add them, or whatever else pleases your taste.

Finally, there is the choice of dressing. The standard is bottled mayonnaise, but usually there is way too much, and before long it turns soupy. Homemade mayonnaise is delicious, but too much trouble for the little amount that you use. I prefer just enough French vinaigrette to moisten the mix. It brings great flavor and is light. That made it easy to take the next step and give shiro dashi vinaigrette a try. I am glad. In the future, I won’t use anything else.

You can complete things with a sandwich: your best bread, a leaf of crisp lettuce, a slice or two of fresh tomato, and some avocado. If you decide to go full steam, moisten the bread with shiro dashi vinaigrette instead of butter or mayonnaise. The perfect lunch.

RECIPES

Shiro Dashi Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  •  ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons should work)
  •  1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons shiro dashi
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a quart Mason jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously until will mixed.
  2. Use as you would vinaigrette. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week. Use on any dish that would benefit from some flavor – salads, soups, cooked vegetables, etc.

Shiro Dashi Tuna and Egg Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 can tuna (7 ounces), well drained
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped coarsely
  • 3 scallions, green part included, sliced finely
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/8-1/4 inch pieces
  • 3 small dilll pickles, chopped
  • 3 to 6 generous tablespoons shiro dashi vinaigrette, according to taste
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, mash together the tuna and eggs, using a table fork, until they are well broken up but still recognizable. Gently stir in the sliced scallions, chopped celery, and chopped pickles.
  2. Add shiro dashi just to moisten the mixture and according to your taste.
  3. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

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ASPARAGUS SOUP AND SPAGHETTI WITH PEAS

This last weekend turned out to be a good family gathering. Sarah drove from San Francisco with her two boys. We spent the days enjoying some of the attractions of Southern California even though it was cold and overcast. Sarah was disappointed that Bay Area weather followed her. The boys swam – shivering – in the unheated pool. There were walks along the seaside cliffs and among the yellow waves of flowering mustard. Everyone is on a diet. Mine is medically prescribed, Carol’s is more casual, and Sarah’s is a crash strict vegetarian regimen. For a few hours we were fairly conscientious. Our first evening’s meal was a green salad with shredded rotisserie chicken and various vegetable additions. Dessert was fruit salad, actually a mixed fruit and berry compote. On that I gained two pounds! What???

Dying eggs, filling Easter baskets, and trying out an antique Easter bunny chocolate mold that Sarah found in Petaluma were all subliminal messages to relax our diet ambitions…and so we did.

After dress-up church, Carol came home for a brief walk before she launched into preparation of a delicious feast that set back my weight-loss ambitions by several days. We enjoyed a Southern California evening with drinks and snacks on the patio. The weather had a change of heart that made it possible.. Then Carol began the cavalcade of food with tiny glass cups of chilled creamed asparagus soup topped off with a dollop of lemon cream and a bit of asparagus tip.  We sipped the delicious amuse bouche and watched for the green light as the sun dipped below the ocean horizon. As always, we did not see it.

Carol often makes a chilled mushroom soup that she serves as a first course, but because it’s spring and Easter, and because it is high season for asparagus, she changed her menu. The lemon cream was a good foil for the vegetal soup. In preparing the soup, the final step is to puree the soup mixture. Just be aware that a regular blender will not work. Carol used a Vita-Mix for several minutes to get the velvety texture. I guess you could also pass the mixture through a tamis, but that sounds like a lot of work to me.

Chilled asparagus soup with lemon cream

At Carol’s request, Sarah made “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese and Duck Fat” from Rich Table, pages 129-131. The dish was a popular favorite when the restaurant first opened. It has been off the menu for a while, but it is featured in the cookbook. Sarah brought her own supply of fresh green peas and pea tendrils from San Francisco, but I am sure that Los Angeles peas would have worked. You can probably find your own pea tendrils in a little plastic clamshell at a store like Whole Foods. Who would think that green peas and spaghetti are a delicious combination? Clearly, goat cheese and duck fat contribute to  the rush of flavors, but the finished product is both beautiful and delicious.

Sarah heads to New York City after her visit here for the James Beard writing awards. The cookbook is a finalist for best cookbook in the restaurant and professional category. Good luck, Sarah.

Spaghetti with peas, lime, goat cheese, and duck fat

Add to that  a beautiful glazed Japanese-style ham with honey-glazed carrots and hard rolls and the feast was complete…

EXCEPT

You can’t have a feast like that without dessert. And so Carol made a three-layer spice cake filled with berries, topped with cream cheese frosting along with fresh blackberries. Ice cream on request. So long to any last remnants of a diet.

Spice cake with mixed fresh berries

But there’s always Monday.

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POPCORN

I love popcorn. So does nearly everyone in the family. I grew up on popcorn. It was cheap and found in many places: the dime store always had the popper going with steam pouring out of the doors and the popper spilling fresh kernels into a fragrant pile; the movie theater sold little paper bags filled to overflowing; my mother made it just about every night after dinner. She used  a pressure cooker with just a little oil and constant shaking over the gas flame. Later she got a wire popcorn basket on a long handle as a gift. Even with practice, much of the popped kernels came out burned. Then she got a machine with a wire that turned on the bottom to keep the popped kernels from burning. She used that for years even as it lost its gleam with age.

Sarah’s boys beg for popcorn. She makes it in an “air popper” that uses a hot air blower akin to a hair dryer to pop the kernels. She fills up a big metal bowl and then tosses the hot popcorn with melted butter, salt, and finely grated fresh Parmesan. Who wouldn’t one beg for that?

René makes popcorn for her girls on Friday evening to enjoy while watching a movie. She sprinkles nutritional yeast to her version, reflecting her enthusiasm for a healthy diet.

Carol’s household has been limiting their popcorn because of a vey long spell of braces for teenagers. Now that braces have come off, popcorn popping has returned to the culinary repertoire.

As for me, I rely on the microwave. I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that prepackaged microwave popcorn is the most popular way to make the treat at home. The main drawback to that method is that it is relatively expensive. Being a tightwad, I buy two-pound bags of loose kernels. Our family prefers yellow over white – the popped kernels are bigger. For years I have used a popping method I learned about by watching Elton Brown’s “Good Eats” many years ago.  I place 1/3 cup of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, close the bag with two folds, staple the fold with two staples at least 3 inches apart (to avoid arcing in the microwave) and microwave. I set the microwave timer for 3 minutes but pull the bag out of the oven when the sound of popping slows. That usually occurs at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but you need to experiment with your own microwave as they are extremely variable in the power they produce. When the corn is popped, I pull it out of the microwave, cut off the top of the bag with scissors, and dump the popped corn into a bowl for melted butter and salt.

I thought I had the perfect system. So I was surprised when I opened a Christmas gift from Susan. It was an Ecolution Micro-Pop® Popcorn Popper. Essentially it dresses up Elton Brown’s idea with an attractive glass bowl housed in a bright red plastic carrier and topped with a red lid that doubles as a dispenser for butter. It makes less popcorn than the brown paper bag method, but it is plenty for one person and it is easy to make a second or third batch. Time in the microwave is about the same, but you need to listen and stop the popping just the same  as with the paper bag. I was tempted to use more corn kernels – actually I did – and I strongly advise against it as the popped corn will burn and it will be hard to get it out of the popper. All in all it’s a good and fun method to pop corn. Still, I plan to hold onto my paper bags.

One last comment: Recently we spent a few days in Avalon on Catalina Island. One of our restaurant choices was the Avalon Grille (excellent choice, by the way) where they brought us a basket of delicately chili-flavored popcorn to go with drinks. The taste was light and refreshing, not at all what you might think when you hear “chili-flavored popcorn.” At home, I tried to reproduce the flavor. I mixed equal parts of table salt, vinegar powder (available from Pendery’s Spices) and ground chiles (You can use as mild or piquant as you wish.) Then I used the mixture to season popcorn that had already been buttered. My version was not as good as the original, but it was still good enough to do again.

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