Tag Archives: sesame oil

BRAISED BABY BOK CHOY AND GARLIC SCAPES

I went to our local farmers’ market this last weekend. Spring is just now beginning to ease into summer here, so the choices in the stalls at the market have been relatively few. Next week the vendors will move from their winter locations to their summer spots. That means that this week they began to offer the first of their usual summer bounty. There was some asparagus, a few root vegetables that had been wintered over, and a lot of greens and lettuces. One farmer was offering some succulent baby bok choy. Several vendors had baskets overflowing with garlic and shallot scapes. Garlic has become a very popular local crop, but farmers need to trim off the tops with the flower buds to encourage fuller garlic bulbs. These tops are called scapes. I wrote about cooking with them last year (June 20, 2015) – a garlic scape frittata.  This past weekend I was pleased to find the scapes, as the “season” for them lasts at most two or three weeks. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would do with them, and then I thought of those bok choy and what a good combination the two would make. They turned out to be perfect accompaniment to butter-fried salmon. This is a vegetarian dish and can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter or substituting vegetable oil.

RECIPE

Braised Baby Bok Choy and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients

  • 2-4 baby bok choy
  • 1-2 good handfuls of garlic scapes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sesame oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Trim any roots from the bok choy and discard. Cut leaves off of the bulbs and set aside to be braised at the last minute. Cut garlic scapes into pieces sized to your preference.
  2. Add the bok choy bulbs and garlic scapes to boiling vegetable stock in a small braising pan or saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the bok choy is pierced easily with a kitchen fork. Add the greens and cover. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the greens are completely wilted.
  4. Season with a dash or two of sesame oil. Remember, it is easy to overdo sesame oil.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain and serve immediately. Plate the greens and arrange the bulbs and then the scapes on top. Serves 2-4 persons depending on how many bok choy you braise.

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CREAMED PEAS, NEW POTATOES, AND PEARL ONIONS – BOUNTY FROM THE FARMERS MARKET

I went to the farmers market this weekend and was surprised to find that the fruits and vegetables usually available this time of year were missing. We live at 7,000 feet, so the growing season is usually later than in other parts of the country. We also had a late spring,  and things are just behind schedule. On top of that, I’ve recently visited farmers markets in Southern California, Texas, and Louisiana where the season is much further along.

The market did have a lot of greens and root vegetables, but not many stone fruits or tomatoes. I found a few heirloom tomatoes that had been grown under protective tents. I’m going to use those to make panzanella. I also found the first peaches of the season, and I plan to use those for my version of Strawn’s Café Famous Peach Ice Box Pie.

The big finds, though, were green shell peas and tiny new potatoes. When I was growing up, we always planted green peas by Saint Patrick’s Day to assure a good crop. Then, when they came in, my grandfather, father, and I would sit on the back step, eating them raw, fresh out of the pod. In the American South, green peas are called English peas to distinguish them from the black-eye, Crowder, purple hull, and cream peas that are so important there. I don’t know what the English call green peas. Maybe one of my blogger friends from the UK can help me out.

The freshly dug potatoes looked delicious, and at one stand they had been carefully sorted by size, so that one basket was filled with tiny potatoes no more than an inch and a half across and all practically the same size. Boiled new potatoes like those are among the luxuries of early summer.

All of that reminded me of one of my favorites of childhood: creamed peas, new potatoes, and pearl onions. So that’s what I made for supper. Even though that’s an old-timey dish, it was every bit as good as I remembered.

RECIPE

Creamed Peas, New Potatoes, and Pearl Onions

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small new potatoes, washed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, fresh or frozen
  • 1½ pounds unshelled green peas, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill fronds, snipped

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes, return to the boil and cook until the potatoes are pieced with a cooking fork, about 20 minutes. They should be not quite cooked through.
  2. Add the pearl onions and return to the boil for another 5 minutes. Then add the peas and boil for another 5 minutes or until the peas are done. Drain.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. The mixture should be foaming. Stir for a few minutes to cook the flour.
  4. Pour in the milk and stir continuously until the mixture thickens. It is alright if it begins to boil, but at that point remove from the heat.
  5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and add sesame oil to taste. Be gingerly, as sesame oil can be overpowering. Stir in the snipped dill
  6. Pour the sauce over the drained vegetables. Mix until well combined. Serve immediately.
  7. Serves two to four as a side dish.

 

 

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SCALLION PANCAKES – FAMILY MEAL

One of the great traditions in restaurants – unfortunately tending to die out – is Family Meal. That’s when everyone takes a break from preparative work to gather together, talk about the evening ahead, and  share a meal prepared by one of the cooks. The meal is almost always comfort food made with leftover ingredients or inexpensive ingredients ordered just for the meal. The great thing is that the cooks rotate the assignment so the pressure is on to prepare something that everyone will enjoy. This is definitely not the time or place to embarrass yourself in front of your peers. Often Family Meal will feature food from childhood – a family favorite or Mom’s secret recipe. I have previously written about Sarah’s brisket and biscuits that became so popular the kitchen staff cheered when they appeared on the menu.

During a recent trip to San Francisco I got to spend the afternoon with Sarah in the prep room at Rich Table. That’s where Jonathan Tu whipped up his mother’s recipe for scallion pancakes. Nearly every Asian nation has its own version of this treat, but they all come down to a simple flour and water dough and chopped green scallions.  Kneading, layering with oil, and rolling out the dough a couple of times makes a flaky, multi-layered pancake rivaling puff pastry but without all the hassle.  There are a few little tricks or special touches in rolling out the dough, but in the end scallion pancakes are so simple and so good.

Jonathan served his pancakes with chicken sausage, rice, and a sauce of mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flakes, but it’s up to you to choose your favorite dipping sauce or topping.

 

RECIPE

Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, including green tops
  • sesame oil

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and water. Mix until it holds together and forms a ball. Continue to knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and shiny.
  2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal balls. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one of the balls to about 1/8 inch thick. Keep the remaining balls covered with a cloth until you are ready to roll them out..
  4. Drizzle the top of the rolled out dough with sesame oil. Sprinkle with ¼ of your chopped scallions and kosher salt. Fold it over and roll it out again.
  5. Roll up the flattened dough like a cigar. Divide the cigar crosswise into two pieces. Coil each piece like a snake or snail. Flatten the coil with your hand and then roll out into a circle with a rolling-pin.
  6. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. You should have eight pancakes.
  7. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to medium high or use a heated plancha. Lightly oil the cooking surface, and then transfer one of the pancakes to the skillet or plancha. Cook for two minutes. Then flip and cook the other side for two minutes. The pancakes should be a light golden brown.
  8. Repeat with each of the remaining pancakes. You may keep them in a warm (200°F) oven while you cook the rest.
  9. Cut each pancake into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce or accompaniments of your choice.

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COLE SLAW – MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRAWFISH BOIL

A week or so ago my post provided the details of a crawfish boil in Silicon Valley. For that great event, my daughter-in-law asked me to make coleslaw. I call her the “Salad Queen” because she whips up the most delicious salads on a moment’s notice, but she claimed that coleslaw was not something she liked to make. I confess that I’m not a big fan of most coleslaw, either. That’s because they often contain the core of the cabbage head, the cabbage is in big chunks with the heavy taste of cabbage, and the salad is swimming in runny mayonnaise.

Years ago I learned the first important lesson for coleslaw from my younger daughter when she was only about ten years old. She was assigned to do the cabbage chopping for a family gathering. We thought she would be finished in just a few minutes, but a half hour later she was still chopping and the cabbage was as fine as I had ever seen it. She had also removed the core of the cabbage before she started the project. Everyone loved one of her first cooking projects.

The second lesson comes from a consideration of the origins of the word, coleslaw. It is derived from the Danish word, koolsla, meaning cabbage (cole) salad ( sla, a contraction of salade). The point of all that is you can use any kind of cabbage or even cabbage relatives you want (especially shredded Brussels sprouts, but also broccoli, rabe, or cauliflower) , and you can put anything else that catches your fancy in the salad.  Apples, carrots, celery, and chopped nuts are among the most common additives.

The third lesson for me is that a little mayonnaise goes a long way – much farther than you think. In recent times, I always add less mayonnaise than I think the dish needs. That includes tuna salad, sandwiches, and coleslaw In every instance what I have learned is that less is better, and you can always add more. Of course, homemade mayonnaise is better than bottled, and it doesn’t take too much extra time to make. Another option is not to use mayonnaise at all; freshly made vinaigrette is a refreshing substitute.

For the crawfish boil, I decided to use napa (Chinese) cabbage and red cabbage along with red onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery for the basic salad. I used vinaigrette with a shot of sesame oil for the dressing. Here is the recipe.

RECIPE

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  •  1 large head, napa cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, grated, and chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients

Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and sugar.
  2. While whisking continuously, drizzle in the olive oil until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in the sesame oil, and correct seasonings with salt and pepper

Dressing the Salad

  1. Pour only about half of the vinaigrette onto the coleslaw and gently stir in until the salad is completely dressed
  2. Add more dressing as needed, being especially careful not to use too much. The coleslaw should be moistened but not damp with dressing
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Napa cabbage

Napa cabbage

Red cabbage

Red cabbage

Red onion

Red onion

Carrots

Carrots

Celery

Celery

Green bell pepper

Green bell pepper

Chopped vegetables

Chopped vegetables

Finished coleslaw

Finished coleslaw

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CUCUMBER-NORI-SESAME SALAD AND SAUTÉED ROYAL TRUMPET MUSHROOMS: THE FINISHING TOUCHES

Just two more dishes to finish the description of the celebratory meal we had from foods we collected at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Both are easy to make but surprisingly unique.

Cucumber-nori-sesame salad

The first was a refreshing salad made with amazingly crunchy and green baby cucumbers and fresh salad greens accented with bits of nori and toasted white sesame seeds.

Royal trumpet mushrooms

The second was a delicate sauté of royal trumpet mushrooms with scallions.

Scallions

Sautéed mushrooms and scallions ready to serve

As a bonus not from the farmers market we had a fresh loaf of home-baked Tartine basic country bread made from the recipe in Chad Robertson’s elegant and detailed cookbook, Tartine Bread, Chronicle Books, Ltd, San Francisco, 2010, pages 41-79. (Yes, that’s a long recipe. I plan to post an abbreviated version soon. That should enable you to reproduce the absolutely best home-made bread I have ever tasted).

Fresh loaf of Tartine-style bread

RECIPES

Cucumber-Nori-Sesame Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 small, firm baby cucumbers cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
  • 2 Cups mixed baby salad greens
  • ½ 7 inch sheet of nori cut into ½ inch squares
  • vinaigrette (home-made is the best, but use your favorite)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Procedure

  • Combine the cucumbers, greens, and nori in a serving bowl.
  • Dress lightly with your favorite vinaigrette. If you like, add the optional sesame oil. Toss.
  • Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Should serve four

Sautéed Royal Trumpet Mushrooms with Scallions

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (use EVOO – extra virgin olive oil – if you like)
  • 1 small basket (about 2 Cups) fresh royal trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) scallions, trimmed and cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces, including the green tops
  • salt and pepper

Procedure

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and scallions and sauté until cooked through.
  • Correct seasonings with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately.

Table set with sweet peas

We set the table with the bouquet of multi-colored sweet peas bought from the flower stall, plated up the feast, and enjoyed it while Evan finished his last day at the restaurant.

Ready to eat

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