Wednesday, June 12, 2013

strawberry season 2013

I don't think I have the patience to make Campari-stuffed strawberries this year, but it's finally local strawberry season and I had to have Eton mess:

Eton mess with matcha meringues

Matcha meringues (egg whites, superfine sugar, cream of tartar, and matcha powder whipped until stiff, baked at 200 for 2 hours, left in the closed oven overnight) broken into pieces;
whipped local cream;
halved strawberries macerated with a little sugar and Chartreuse;
a few extra drops of Chartreuse on top.

I say it every year, but if you haven't had strawberries and Chartreuse together in some way, you're missing out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

fish market sushi bar

No photos in this entry, but I've been meaning to mention Fish Market Sushi Bar in Boston. This place served us not only the best sushi I've had (in the broad sense of "food from a sushi restaurant"), but sushi of a quality I associate with prices two, three, four times as high.

First of all, the sushi itself was terrific and comes in a nice variety. Sometimes, the more unusual pieces of sushi, either I find places are constantly sold out of them, or because they aren't ordered very often, you may get something that's been sitting around a while. But I had confidence in Fish Market's sell-through, so I went with giant clam, salt water eel (anago - the more common eel is unagi, fresh water eel), and foie gras with truffle. There's nothing especially unusual about the foie except for the novelty of having it on the sushi rice - but you know what, there is something terrific about being able to get foie for five bucks. That's all you need, really, or all I need - an occasional bite of foie gras. I don't need a twenty-four dollar app, and I appreciate having a bite small enough that you don't need the acidity of some sweet accompaniment in order to balance the richness.

The giant clam and the salt water eel were very fresh and very very good - the salt water eel was one of the single best pieces of sushi I've had anywhere.

I can't remember which roll Caitlin got, but I got the softshell crab, which was wrapped in a thin sheet of daikon radish - very nice and a nice contrast to the nicely crispy deep-fried crab. A lot of times I avoid rolls with flying fish roe, because it's my least favorite roe, but there wasn't too much here so it wasn't overwhelming.

The stars, oh man - two cold appetizers, listed under the "new cold appetizer" section of the online menu. This is where a lot of the more inventive stuff falls, stuff that makes sense for a sushi bar to sell but doesn't fall into the rather strict categories of sushi/sashimi/maki.

I got scallop and sea urchin, because how could I not? When it's fresh, sea urchin is one of my four or five favorite flavors. At Fish Market it was fresh. The portion is small - a blob of uni on a slice of scallop, two such slices per order, with a little basil-yuzu dressing - but like with the foie, what I like here is just getting a hit of that strong, rich flavor. Goddamn it was good. It's also a good way to try sea urchin for the first time, rather than having a bite full of it in the form of sushi.

Caitlin got the truffling tuna - slices of raw tuna "swimming in truffle butter," and they really aren't exaggerating about that. You could mop it up with bread if you had any. Again, terrific stuff - truffle goes better with tuna than with most meats.

Now I'm thinking about that scallop and sea urchin. Geez.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

sloppy joes

A quick update just because I've been so remiss.

Two things made me think of sloppy joes yesterday: Eataku's post about a sloppy joe mac and cheese sandwich, and buying a Crenshaw melon.

It's earlier than I'm used to seeing Crenshaw melons, but the one I got, though a little underripe, is delicious, especially for four bucks. And it made me realize, I don't give Indiana enough credit when I talk about the arc of my learning to cook.

I started cooking as a little kid, throwing random ingredients into boxed cake mixes, and cooked actual meals as a teenager, before spending some of my college years taking care of and cooking for three young children, and then moving to New Orleans where I learned to really cook - because everyone pretty much does, and people generally know more about food, and I lived in places conducive to figuring out what I was doing. (I was adjacent to Little Vietnam for a couple years, which meant access to a lot of new ingredients and foods, and then lived in an odd corner of Gentilly, in a predominantly black formerly German neighborhood with Hispanic markets.)

But before moving back to New England I lived in Indiana.

And it's in Indiana that I first had ramps, for instance, and sour cherries, and Mitchum peppermint, and duck eggs, and fresh currants and elderberries, and fresh fava beans, all at the Bloomington Farmers Market. In Indiana I first cooked pork belly, goat, venison, tongue, and cuts of buffalo other than ground or steaks. This is even aside from the pig head I bought at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, or the rattlesnake I didn't buy because it was $25 a pound (I've seen it for three times as much since then). I had Middle Eastern markets where I could buy labneh and pomegranate molasses, a Filipino market where I bought balut and calamansi and pig's blood, a butcher that sold me three quarters of a goat because they knew I'd be into that, a Chinese restaurant where I ordered fried intestine, a Korean joint where I had raw crab still in the shell.

Indiana grew the best apples I'd had before moving back to New England (where either orchards have made more interesting apples available or I've become a better apple customer), unbelievably great cherries, pawpaws and American persimmons. And Indiana grew melons.

Man, the melons at the farmer's market were so good. The appeal at first was the watermelons, big bright watermelons with seeds, which might be a pain in the ass but mean much better flavor than the seedless melons. But I tried everything. Santa Claus melons, Crenshaw melons, all the various muskmelon varieties. Crenshaw is one of the best - like a cantaloupe with more character.

Anyway, that's Indiana. And one of the things I made a lot in Indiana was sloppy joes, partly because of that goat - I had a lot of ground goat to use up - and partly because I was into Cuban food, which may be the origin of sloppy joes (I'm skeptical of most food origin stories, so I have no idea if that's really where sloppy joes come from or not).

These sloppy joes capitalized on my having just bought some Tony Chachere's seasoning, and are stuffed into red bell pepper halves.

Sloppy joes:
1 pound ground beef, browned, most of the fat drained
a couple spoonfuls diced onion
5 diced ramp bulbs
1 14 oz can tomatoes, pureed
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Tony Chachere's to taste

Cook onion and ramps in a spoonful or two of fat from the ground beef. Combine remaining ingredients and cook until thickened; refrigerate overnight.

Pimento cheese:
combine pimiento peppers, Duke's mayonnaise, sharp cheddar, a dash of mustard, a pat of butter, and a dash of hot sauce in Cuisinart.

Cook a little diced onion, diced ramp, and diced radish in chicken fat leftover from Sunday's roast chicken. Add Tony Chachere's until noticeably salty. Chill.

Fill pepper halves with sloppy joes, top with pimento cheese, and bake at 350 for an hour. Serve with schmaltz on bread.

Pepper stuffed with sloppy joes; bread with radish-and-ramp schmaltz