Posts tagged ‘ginger’

November 8, 2011

Salad Series {post #1} Wheat Berry Salad and the Elusive Vinaigrette

We eat a salad of some sort just about every day at our house. I’ve been told it’s a particular strength of mine to compose a salad, I just think we excel in things we love to eat. Funny though, back in culinary school I struggled most with making a vinaigrette – it just seemed impossible to balance just enough acid with the oil. Drop by drop we would add the oil into the bowl while the other would vigorously whisk in fear of breaking the emulsion. We would all stand around the bowl with our plastic spoons tasting and re-tasting this terribly flat or lip puckering concoction – “maybe a little more oil” – “no, maybe a bit more acid” – “maybe it needs more salt” – “I just don’t know!” It’s so funny to think about it now. One day it just clicked. I remember the moment I finally started to understand the vinaigrette. I was working my internship in Los Angeles, at Ciudad (owned and operated by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger AKA The Two Hot Tamales). Before service each day, Susan would grab a handful of spoons and walk through the line and taste everything that we were about to send out to the guests, I mean everything! At that point I was just moved up from prep to working the salad/hot appetizer station. Prep cooks work behind the scenes, usually off the line. They peel potatoes, chop onions, slice mushrooms – pretty much anything and everything that makes the chefs and line cooks life easier. The dishwashers and prep cooks are the true backbone of any restaurant, they make us all look better.  In the beginning Susan would comment to me that my salads needed more vinegar/acid (or salt!), even after painstakingly making the dressings. This made me really stop and think about what I was trying to achieve, and in turn brought me back to culinary school and the vinaigrette recipe standard of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid . If you can keep this formula in the back of your mind you are well on your way to making great vinaigrettes. Vinegars and citrus such as lemons have different levels of tartness, so depending on what your acid of choice is, you may have to slightly adjust the amount oil. For me it’s more like a 2:1 ratio, I like a little extra punch, but everyone’s tastes are different. It’s not a science, it’s a subtle balance – you want your tongue to tingle ever so slightly. The acid will hit you in the back sides of your tongue, just enough to make your mouth water a bit. Pay attention, close your eyes and taste – you’ll know when you have the right balance when you say to yourself “damn, that’s really good”.

I’ve been looking forward to diving into this Salad “Series” with you. Salads, vinaigrettes and dressing – there are no limits to the flavors and combinations – so let’s get crazy and creative! Well, at least creative.


Pottery handmade by Catalina Aguirre Hoffman

Wheat Berry Salad with ginger and citrus.
I’ve dubbed this salad “the kitchen sink”, make at the end of the week when you have bits and pieces of things left over that you need to use up. When I’m thinking about a salad, I want to hit all the senses. Is there something crunchy, something a little sweet, salty, something peppery, astringent, a little acidic, something chewy (and this wheat berry salad is definitely chewy!). Sometimes you can achieve this in just a few ingredients – some mixed greens, a few seeds or nuts and a fantastic vinaigrette. Well, this Wheat Berry Salad has more than a few ingredients, but so good! Remember “kitchen sink”, throw in what you have on hand – a handful of nuts, some dried fruit, left over veggies, that little chunk of cheese that’s been sitting in the fridge waiting for a purpose…

April 29, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Lamb Chops, Green Tea Noodles with Wild Mushrooms, Shrimp Stuffed Broccoli Rabe with Hoisin BBQ Sauce


click recipe to enlarge


Click recipe to enlarge

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Lamb Chops with Radicchio Slaw
This is a perfect early spring dish. Hopefully your weather allows you to get outside and light up the grill. Radicchio is a tad too bitter to eat on it’s own, at least for my liking. I thinly sliced and soaked it in ice water to get rid of some of the bitterness, then added a mild cabbage. With the lime and honey it had just the right amount of bitterness to complement the sweet and spicy lamb chops. I marinated the lamb overnight, but if you’re pressed for time marinade it for at least an hour, it gets better the longer it sits in the marinade. Assemble the slaw before you cook the lamb. Pre heat the grill to high, and grill for about 10 minutes turning once or twice. Lower one section of the grill to low and cook the lamb indirectly for another 5 minutes or until it’s cooked to your liking, then transfer it back to high, and brush with the reserved marinade while turning on all sides allowing the sugars to caramelize. I know this is a lot to ask given the smell and crispy goodness, let the lamb rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting in to it (yes, even just a little piece). Trust me, it’ll be well worth it!

I’m crazy for Japanese noodles. Any flavor, shape, size, or form – stir fried, in soups, hot, cold, sweet, spicy or tangy – I could eat them everyday, definitely my happy food. If you were to sit down with me to eat a bowl of noodles, I would probably embarrass you. Because of this, only my dearest, non judging, mutual noodle crazed friends join me to eat in public (yes, I’m talking about you V.V. & M.I.). We sit down, giddy with anticipation, roll up our sleeves, load up on napkins, and go at it. Aren’t friends like this the best! This Cha Soba (Green Tea Soba) with wild mushrooms is a tasty little dish I’ve been making for several years now. It comes together in a snap and is really good served at room temperature, so its perfect party fare. Overcooked noodles make me sad, so it’s important to cook the noodles first and shock them in cold water. Sauté the mushrooms and quickly combine everything in the hot pan, then into the serving dish. You can eat it on it’s own or serve it with grilled meats.

Shrimp Stuffed Broccoli Rabe
I ran across this on a Chinese takeout menu a while back and instantly thought…how the heck do you stuff a piece of broccoli? Of course I ordered it; couldn’t imagine what it would be like.  It was shaped like dim sum (oooh, another thing I can’t seem to get enough of, focus), but tasted like a stir fry in bite size pieces. This restaurant served it with a simple teriyaki sauce.  I immediately knew that I wanted to re-create it. My version has broccoli rabe, shrimp speckled with bits of lemon zest, cilantro and scallions. I made a super flavorful, lightweight Hoisin BBQ sauce to go with it. Definitely a keeper.

%d bloggers like this: