Maiko Epic

August 9th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night in Prince Edward Island for the Freeman/Sakamoto family so Exquisite Maiko created an epic Japanese dinner centered around her foraging efforts on the PEI shoreline. Grilled mackerel (form the fishing boats at Naufrage). Shime Saba: slices of raw mackerel preserved in vinegar. Okra and hijiki salad. Tomato, mushroom, avocado and sea asparagus (picked on the shoreline of HG’s home) salad. Marinated and fried eggplant. Pickled watercress (plucked at the base of a freshwater stream that empties into the ocean). HG’s restaurateur daughter, Victoria Freeman, arrived in time for the feast (after arduous air travel marked by cancelled flights and other annoyances). Maiko’s epic was preceded by oysters (shucked by HG) and shrimp salad (one of Lesley R.’s specialties). Vicki is a pescatorian (eats fish and shellfish but no meat). So, the meal worked for her and everyone else.

Fish Cakes and Pickles

August 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Two trucks are parked on a lot in the town of Montague, PEI. One has a sign, “Blums”, and in season (can hardy wait) sells the world’s best sweet corn. Yes, buttered corn on the cob and lobster rolls. Summer lunch supreme. The other truck’s sign is “Fish.” And, that is what is sold. It is BSK’s source for outstanding local frozen fish cakes. BSK fried a bunch of the wonders last night and served them with tiny PEI potatoes (butter, sea salt, sour cream and zaatar). Big endive and butter lettuce salad with a pungent blue cheese dressing. What made the meal extra special were two varieties of pickles: Mustard pickles from a local woman and dill pickles made from scratch by BSK. Am very familiar with the ravishing mustard pickles (the condiment from heaven) but BSK’s pickles were surprising. As good (or better) than the hearty products turned out in The Bronx and Lower East Side of HG’s youth.

Instant Asia

July 29th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Without guilt, HG often reaches for instant Asian soup when in need of a quick and tasty lunch. Korean Shin Ramyun is excellent with good thick noodles. However, HG tosses out the flavoring packet as it includes much too much sodium. Mixes the noodles with a spoonful of kimchi for flavor or adds any leftover vegetables from the refrigerator. A shot of Sriracha amps the flavor. There are many types of instant Asian soups that HG enjoys — once more, HG discards the high sodium “flavor” packages and adds a few cubes of tofu and a spoonful of chili garlic sauce. A favorite is instant Miso soup (MIKO brand). Nice with a handful of chopped scallions and tofu. Sometimes, HG just cooks plain rice noodles in chicken broth (takes very few minutes) and floats some sesame oil on top. Savory.

Quick and Good

July 18th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Hot summer day. Long day on the beach. Gathering beach glass on shore walks. Swimming in cold, calm waters. Frisbee. Reading. Insects were on vacation making it a perfect day. HG/BSK and grandkids Haru and Teru were ravenous after they washed away the sand in outdoor and indoor showers. While HG sipped his usual grapefruit and vodka pre-dinner cocktail, BSK prepared dinner in record time. Cooked pappardelle. Showered it with handfuls of lightly sautéed cherry tomatoes and a sofrito of olive oil, garlic, anchovies and basil. Large bowls disappeared in record time. Followed by green salad. Dramatic sunset. Early bedtime as cool breezes vanished the heat.

Pork Belly, Tofu, Kimchee = Bliss

July 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Pork belly is sold at the meat counter of every Prince Edward Island supermarket. HG used the rich meat in a flavorful Korean dish. First boiled the pork belly to get rid of excess fat and tenderize the meat. Scooped the pork out of the pot and marinated it for 15 minutes in a mix of thin sliced onion, sliced scallions, Gochujong (Korean miso-like chile paste); soy sauce, light brown sugar, sesame oil and grinds of black pepper. Stir fried vigorously in a hot wok filmed with peanut oil and then added kimchi. Steamed tofu for three minutes over boiling water. Pork was placed in the center of a warmed platter surrounded by tofu. Drizzled sesame oi and scattered chopped scallions. Served with bowls of brown basmati rice. This is a heathy rice containing all of the nutrients that are usually processed out of white rice. Has a nice crunchy texture. HG, a fan of hot food, added some incendiary Chinese chile pepper mix to HG’s plate. Don’t know the name of this mix but the illustration on the jar shows flames bursting out of a pepper. Apt illustration.

Rainy Day Comfort Cuisine

July 7th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Driving rain and brisk winds on Prince Edward Island. Evening supper must concentrate on warm comfort. Now that asparagus are in season, there can be few things more comforting than asparagus risotto. HG never orders risotto in a restaurant. It always disappoints. Not surprising. Making proper risotto requires time (20 minutes or more) and concentration. In order to make a profit, restaurants have to resort to pre-cooking or other time saving procedures. Here’s how HG/BSK collaborate on lush pot of risotto. BSK sliced half an onion paper thin. HG cooked the onion and toasted one cup of Italian Arborio rice in olive oil. Many recipes suggest adding white wine at this point and cooking until it evaporates. HG ignores this. Doesn’t enhance the dish. HG adds hot chicken broth (one ladleful at a time) and stirs busily until it evaporates. The aim is to make the rice creamy but not mushy. This takes 20 minutes of adding broth (one and a half containers typically), stirring, stirring and stirring. Meanwhile, BSK cuts the asparagus into thirds and steams the vegetable. Now there is some important timing. (Misguided recipes call for cooking the asparagus with the rice and broth resulting in mushy asparagus). Just a few minutes before the rice is done and the asparagus is cooked but still crisp, the asparagus is added to the pot. When the rice hits the right note of creaminess, a big dollop of butter and plenty of grated parmigiana is stirred into the pot. At table, BSK grates some high quality parmigiana (from a fresh chunk) on each dish. Many grinds of black pepper. Red wine is poured. Goodbye, rainy day gloom.

The Mystery of Canned Asparagus

July 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

There is always a can of green asparagus in BSK’s pantry. Observers are bemused. BSK is not a purist. The excellent cook makes good use of canned San Marzano tomatoes, canned Chinese water chestnuts and bamboo shoots; all of Goya canned beans; Portuguese canned sardines; Ortiz tuna. But, flavorless, mushy canned asparagus? A travesty, especially when the glorious vegetable is in season. Permit HG to solve the mystery: The juice from a can of asparagus is an essential ingredient in one of BSK’s favorite dishes: Shellfish in green sauce. Years ago, HG/BSK devoured many heaping bowls of this Spanish dish at the El Farol and El Charro restaurants in Greenwich Village. BSK’s sister, Noel, and husband Yossi M. were HG/BSK’s guests last night. Encouraged by BSK, they now reside on Prince Edward Island, a salubrious match. Agriculturists, livestock breeders and masters of the equestrian arts, they brought with them some wonders from their farm (strawberries and garlic scapes) plus a bottle of Canadian maple syrup vodka. (Now nestled in the freezer, it should be a super after dinner sip). For “supper” (That’s the evening meal in PEI, Lunch is “dinner”), BSK served clams, mussels and scallops in Spanish green sauce. (HG also boiled some shrimp. They went into the sauce separately, since BSK is allergic to crustaceans). BSK left the traditional recipe in New Mexico. That meant improvisation. BSK was a talented “improv” participant as an actress. Still has that talent in the kitchen. BSK’s “improv” of olive oil, parsley, garlic, onions, white wine, flour,clam juice, asparagus juice from two cans, dry sherry, created an extraordinary sauce. The shellfish and their juices further enriched the sauce. Then there was a unique BSK bit of magic. The tangy dish was served over Geechie Boy Grits. The grits soaked up every bit of the delectable sauce. Another BSK culinary triumph.

Moules

June 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

There are few things more satisfying than a big bowl of plump, juicy mussels. Wonderful with a baguette to soak up the savory broth. Just fine when served over linguine with a lusty shower of red pepper flakes. That’s the way HG/BSK did it last night and it was dish to remember. HG bought the mussels at the plant of a big mussel company in Morell (jut a few miles from HG/BSK’s ocean front home on Prince Edward Island). Last summer, HG was disappointed with PEI mussels. Tiny and flavorless. Woman at the mussels plant said summers are spawning season for mussels and they shrink in size. Assured HG that the early June mussels would be good eating. She was right. The two pound bag (about $2.25 in American dollars) provided some of the best bivalves HG/BSK ever tasted. Learned that knowing gourmands bought frozen mussels during the summer. These are harvested at a peak time and are tasty specimens.`A lesson learned.

Roadies

June 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Like the Willie Nelson tune, HG/BSK are “On The Road Again.” Destination: Prince Edward Island Island and HG/BSK’s oceanfront home. It will be a delight to be back in Canada, a democracy with an enlightened leader. First stop on the trip was Amarillo, Texas, and Tyler’s BBQ for splendid sliced brisket, dry rubbed ribs, pulled pork, cole slaw, beans and pickles. Lots of icy pink lemonade. Tyler’s is a visit to down home America, warm, honest and tasty. Next leg of trip was to St. Louis and then on to Youngstown, Ohio. Stayed in two La Quintas and a Holiday Express, all dog friendly and welcoming for Toby, The Wonder Dog, HG/BSK’s travel companion. Yes, America has some frightening flaws but two things the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave does superlatively: Tyler’s Barbecue. Chain motels. (Great beds, TV,sparkling bathrooms, free wi-fi, plenty of hot water and ice, efficient toilets,free breakfast, modest prices). Had to make time so didn’t stop at eateries like Sawadee Thai in Rolla, Mo. or Shapiro’s Jewish Deli, Indianapolis. Opted for quick meals at Waffle House. No complaints. Big bowls of buttery grits with perfect poached eggs; softly scrambled eggs with onion topped home fries. Waffles, of course. Reminded HG of artist Saul Steinberg’s advice: “If you want to eat well in the midwest of the USA, eat breakfast three times a day.” Arrived at the Riva home in Riverside, R.I., after a struggle with Connecticut Friday night traffic jams. Brilliant (and beautiful) granddaughter Arianna was there to welcome the hungry duo with San Daniele prosciutto, crisp bread sticks, bowls of steaming chicken broth with tortellini. Warm and comforting finale to the days on the road.

The Best Potato Chip

May 18th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night, before dinner, HG sipped a glass of ice cold Provence rose wine accompanied by six carefully rationed Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Salt and Pepper Potato Chips. The chips accounted for some 60 calories. Yes, you’ve got to be careful with these chips since they are addictive. They are the best chips in the world. They have the honest taste of freshly fried potatoes. Moreover, they are solidly constructed and the most efficient vehicle for dipping into guacamole, hummus, white bean dip (check out Zabar’s recipe), etc. BSK is disciplined about diet and snacking (one of the secrets of her good looks). But, BSK goes haywire over TJ’s chips. HG has been instructed to hide them in an obscure corner of the pantry to keep them out of BSK’s reach.