Monday, February 8, 2010

CSA Week 10 and its uses

CSA Week 10

What's in the box this week? From bottom left: thyme (one of my favorite herbs), arugula, green onions, komatsuna, radishes, cilantro (very boisterously scented), Ponkan tangerines, carambolas, and a canistel.

Some of the green onions went into an omelette this morning, along with last week's avocado (ehhhh...). Little Miss F is making quick work of the Ponkans. We tasted one of the carambolas tonight: beautifully fragrant and juicy, but still just a touch over-sour. And then this afternoon, the thyme, green onions and arugula got me thinking: Zuni roast chicken.

While my last experience at Zuni Cafe was less than ideal, the cookbook remains one of my all time favorites. And one of the best recipes in there is the famous roast chicken. You can find the recipe online and there's plenty of walk-throughs on various blogs as well, so I won't belabor it too much here. Plus I was scampering to get the bird done before the Super Bowl started, and my photos - and my presentation - were not so sharp, so no pix. But you won't need much else outside the CSA box to make it happen - a chicken, some currants and pine nuts, the rest is just pantry staples like olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper - and it's a fantastic recipe that can be made in about an hour. I encourage you to try it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

CSA Week 9 - Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce, Olive Oil Fried Egg

When we were last in Spain, we were fortunate enough to be there during calçot season. Calçots are a Catalan specialty, where they take a typical full-grown white onion and replant it, keep it mostly covered with soil while it sprouts, and then harvest it in late winter, when it's grown long shoots like a small leek. Traditionally, they're grilled over an open fire till blackened on the outside and tender within, then served with a romesco sauce for dipping. To eat, you peel off the blackened outer layer, then dip and dangle the onion over your mouth like a sword-swallower. In parts of Spain they have festivals - calçotades - dedicated to their consumption.

The four spring onions that came in last week's CSA box were hardly enough for a festival, but I find their mild sweet flavor pretty similar to calçots, and thought I'd duplicate the preparation on a small scale.

There are many variations on romesco recipes, but the standard components are dried peppers, hazelnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, paprika, and a touch of vinegar. Tomatoes make an appearance in many recipes, as do roasted red peppers - sometimes singly, sometimes in combination. I had not done a shopping trip in preparation, so my romesco was more of a raid-the-pantry version. The mise en place:

spring onionsromesco mise en place

Spring onions; dried guajillo pepper (soaking in hot water); toasted pine nuts; toasted bread; garlic; pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika); jarred piquillo peppers; olive oil; red wine vinegar. Not quite right, but it'll do.

The garlic, pine nuts, and bread (cut into small cubes) went into the food processor and were chopped to a paste. Then the chile pepper was chopped into small pieces and added, along with a drizzle of the soaking water, and processed. Next, the piquillo peppers, and a spoonful of pimentón. Then drizzle in olive oil - about 4-5 tablespoons - until it gets a glossy, creamy texture. The guajillo pepper was still pretty fiery, so I added a bit more water too. Finally, a drizzle of red wine vinegar to taste to perk up the flavors (I used about a tablespoon), and salt to taste.

This is more pungent and spicy than a typical romesco, but still pretty good. Most recipes I saw called for sweet rather than smoked paprika, and the guajillo probably packs more heat than the ñora peppers traditionally used in Spain, but if you're not afraid of bold tastes, both modifications will still pass muster. Next, the onions are rubbed with olive oil and hit the hot grill pan:

spring onions

I covered the pan for a few minutes to let them steam and grill at the same time, and with about 2-3 minutes per side these were tender with nice char marks. Then, since this was going to turn into breafkast, I toasted some bread, cooked a couple eggs sunny side up in hot olive oil, and final assembly:

spring onions w romesco and fried egg

These onions are marvelously sweet and tender, with just a hint of the typical allium bite. And the romesco has lots of other functions. Even made with more traditional components than I used, it's a robust, hearty sauce. It's good just with plain vegetables, raw or cooked. It's also very good with all but the most delicate fish, where I find it makes a nice flavor bridge to enable a pairing of red wine with fish. And it's got enough substance to match up even to a hearty steak - at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, for instance, you'll find it paired with a grilled short rib.

It's not quite a calçotada, but it's not a bad breafkast either.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sakaya Kitchen - Midtown Miami

It is not often that I am at a loss for what to have for dinner. Yet I found myself driving home from work this evening, knowing there was not much in the fridge to cook (yes, there are some pig trotters, but that's more of a project than a quick Tuesday night meal), pondering: "What's for dinner tonight?" Fortunately an idea occurred to me before I made it home to the near-empty fridge: Sakaya Kitchen, one of several new places that have recently opened in the Midtown Shops. (While the Five Guys next door has been open for some time, the Cheese Course and Sugarcane Raw Bar have finally come online after extended waits, and Mercadito is supposedly close).

photo via Sakaya Kitchen

Sakaya's setup looks like a fast food place, with a mostly open kitchen fronted by a long counter that has room for multiple cash registers (a sign either of unbridled optimism, or of a space that was originally built out for another tenant). But there aren't many fast food places where the menu is scrawled out daily on a chalkboard, where almost all the menu's components are made in-house, or where the menu brags about all-natural meats, organic dairy, and fresh produce. You may order at a counter, but this is real food.

When I visited, there were about a dozen items on the menu, plus a few things available by the piece or as side orders. The list is a bit of a pan-Asian hodgepodge with something of a Korean focus, playing in particular on flavors and dishes that David Chang has recently made ever so popular through his Momofuku empire - pork buns, Korean stye chicken wings, noodles with ginger scallion sauce. Which just happened to be what I ordered.

The pork buns were the standout of the group, 2 puffy clamshell buns filled with tender, meaty slabs of pork belly butt that had been slow-cooked for eight hours. The richness was cut by some thin-sliced cucumber pickles stuffed into the buns, along with a generous dollop of a sweet-ish ssamjang (Korean chile sauce). If I could have had my druthers, I would have taken the sticky-sweet-spicy sauce for the pork in a more spicy, less sweet direction, but these were some fine bites.

The Korean chicken wings can be had either by the piece ($4.69 for 6, $8.99 for 12, $14.99 for 20) or as a "combo" of six wings with jasmine rice, kimchi and more of those cucumber pickles ($7.45). The wings had been given a good long bath in a marinade redolent with kochujang (Korean chile paste), the flavor of which was infused throughout. It would be unfair of me to address the crispiness of the wings, as they had to travel 10 minutes in their take-out containers before I got home. I liked the rice, which was moist and just a bit pleasantly sticky, and generously sprinkled with fresh slivers of green onion. I also really liked their kimchi, which had a nice hint of that distinctive fermented, lactic tang.

The noodles, which came with cubed tofu and green beans, were a generous portion, but could have used a much more generous dollop of ginger-scallion sauce to perk them up. The green beans themselves also hadn't been seasoned and wanted some salt. With some minor tweaking I'm sure this could be a fine dish too.

Other items that intrigued included Angus beef bulgogi lettuce wraps, kimchi egg rolls (rolled fresh in house daily), and the promise of a "dim ssam" brunch menu coming soon. There's also about a half dozen sakes available by the bottle as well as a decent selection of Japanese beers.

Sakaya has only been open about a month and I'm sure is still tweaking the recipes and the menu. (My hope is that they turn up the bright spicy flavors even more. "Fortune favors the bold.") But even now it delivers good food at a good price that you can feel good about eating. Plus, it's conveniently located between my office and my house.

Sakaya Kitchen
Buena Vista Avenue btwn 34th & 36th Streets
Miami, FL 33127

Sakaya Kitchen on Urbanspoon