Wednesday, May 30, 2012

making tofu class

i'm taking a quick break from work to eat some leftover wonton soup and i wanted to take a moment to write about the tofu class i attended last night at 18 reasons by delores park. 

i had never taken a class at 18 reasons before. while i like the idea of a community oriented space and all of the things that the bi-rite folks are doing, i usually don't visit the delores park area. yet, when i heard that andrea nguyen was going to teach a class, then i thought..."yeah, i'll make my way over to that area to hear her speak." getting out of the certain parts of the mission, for me, is quite a pain in the ass which is why i've been spending less and less time there and more time exploring other parts of the city that isn't such a challenge to get out of after a certain time at night. these days, i pretty much only go to the mission to go to the hapa kitchen.

the reason why i thought the challenge of exiting that neighborhood was worth it is because i'd recently purchased andrea nguyen's asian tofu book and have had her intro to vietnamese kitchen for years. i reference the viet kitchen book often and i have a feeling that i'll be doing the same thing with the asian tofu book.

i've been interested in tofu and preparations for a long time. yet, what appealed to me about ms. nguyen's book was treating tofu as an ingredient within itself and not something to be manipulated into a diluted mockery of something else. i'm also not vegetarian so i do love me some tofu with meat accents...specifically porky accents. i like experimenting with tofu....these days....i'm really into hodo soy tofu (silken and yuba). there are some techniques that ms. nguyen recommends in the book that i'm very interested in trying out. yet, i wanted to go to the class to see it being made and not just read about it. i definitely plan on using the recipes she provides as guidelines as there were some tofu dishes i had in hong kong that i'm going to try to make....i also love the idea of making some sweet or savory tofu custards that are flavored during the coagulant/setting stage. her book definitely brings out the nerd in me and thought going to the class would also help reinforce my nerdy interest in tofu.

i'm glad that i attended the class. it was very informative. it also helped to have some visual and tactile reinforcements to what she writes be able to touch the beans......

and the soy get idea of the firmness and texture. it also helped to understand more about the level of texture/grain to blend the soy milk before straining it....and to see the weave of the unbleached muslin that she recommends to strain the milk.

also, since i haven't seen videos or any of her demos before, i was not prepared for her to be so funny and sassy. i'm a big fan of funny and sassy. while she was showing the students how to make soy milk, tofu pudding, preparing pressed tofu, and quite a bit more actually, she relayed quite a few funny stories about traveling around asia while conducting her research. i enjoyed the class quite a bit. not only did i learn quite a bit and was there more than enough food for each student to have quite a bit.....

i really just enjoyed listening to her stories. i'm also rather amazed that the class was so inexpensive given the sheer number of things she covered and the food that was provided. i'd definitely attend another class or demo....and think if you should consider it as well.

UPDATE:  i found these videos online......

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

persian green plums: experimentation


a few weeks ago, i spotted these tiny green globes at blossom bluff from a few feet away when i was at the saturday farmers market at the ferry building. i knew that i wanted to take a closer look and handle them a bit to get a sense of the weight and firmness. while i was doing this, i heard one of the blossom bluff folks indicate that they were tart and with a texture similar to a water chestnut. i picked up a few pounds. some for me and some for sus.

oftentimes when i am at a market, i buy from the usual vendors right away. then i do another round to see if there is anything that intrigues me. for years now, one of my goals is to try something new once every week. either cook something new. experiment with a new-to-me ingredient. make a new beverage. try a new food, a new dish, a new beverage, a new-to-me restaurant. long as it is something that was unfamiliar to me previously.

after i purchased the persian green plums, i could feel a brain tingle. there were a lot of possibilities running round in my head. for the first experiment, i wanted to make something that would preserve the crisp texture of the plum. i decided to make a variation of my "go-to" spicy chickpea and quinoa pilaf salad. i'm not a fan of wet grain salads. before i visited ottolenghi in knightsbridge, i thought grain salads were all big sopping cold wet things. yet, when i went to ottolenghi, they totally blew my mind on what constitutes a grain salad. i had a bastmati rice salad. light. fluffy. different textures. not soaking sopping wetness. the majority of grain salads i make now are inspired by that experience.

pretty much the three components of my go to chickpea quinoa salad are spiced chickpeas (onion, black pepper, cumin, coriander, citrus juice, salt, cayenne, tumeric), cooked quinoa, and fresh herbs. yet, i think i was on muni on the way home from the market when i thought that i could not use the citrus juice with the chickpeas and add slices of the persian green. when i made the salad later on, i decided to pass on the tumeric as well. don't know why, just a spur of the moment decision as i was prepping the chickpeas.

i also decided to add a melody of herbs (red shiso, mint, and another "asian mint" that i don't know the name of but am familiar with the flavor and what it looks like) that i picked up from sunday's farmers market at civic center.

this combo turned out lovely. i would definitely make this again and again. the spice, the textures, the burst of tart crispness....all complemented each other.

the next experimentation involved me doing some online research. i found references to a persian green soup with saffron, egg, and mint. i was intrigued by this. a sort of persian sour egg drop soup. i thought it was fascinating that the whites are stirred into the hot soup and the poached yolks were removed, chopped, and then added. i didn't print out the recipe. i had the flavors of the persian green, saffron, mint, and egg in my head and just went from there.

to prep the persian green, i boiled them and then removed the skin and the pits.

i put the pulp and the water i i used to boil the persian green aside. then i sweated some yellow onion, salt, and flour in a pot. then i added the water (a light green color) i used to boil the persian green and the pulp. then i added the saffron and reduced it until the pulp and chopped onion was completely disintegrated. the soup had a slight viscosity to it. it is very tart. then i added egg white. then i added the yolks. then after about a minute or two, i removed the yolks and put aside. i plated the soup with chopped mint and pieces of the soft cooked egg.

it was pretty good. it was particularly good when paired with the quinoa salad. this is a very tart it isn't for everyone. i liked it...especially with the notes of saffron and mint.

the third and final experimentation was a cocktail. i knew that i wanted something very simple. i've been wanting to try the st. george rye gin that i bought a while ago and thought that this would be a good time to try it out. when i opened the bottle, i tried the gin by itself and was extremely surprised that i liked it. i am normally not a fan of gin. yet, cdouble a while back showed me one of the st. george gins and mentioned how much he liked it....and that stuck with me and figured i'd give one of the st. george gins a shot. i'm glad that i did. after trying it straight, i muddled it with the persian green and mint. then i added tonic. then i strained it into a tumbler with a king size ice cube using a "mint julep" strainer. i also garnished with persian green plum and mint.

this was wonderful. this was also my favorite of the three experimentations.

i was so excited about this that i made this for a friend. while i was making it, they said "are you making me a $15 drink?" this made me laugh. yet, it is true. it is the type of drink that i could very well see for $15 on a menu and it would be worth it. after i made it and gave it to the friend to try.....the friend's reaction after the first sip and the various comments still makes me smile. yeah, it is a good cocktail combo. this past saturday, i wasn't able to find any more persian green plums that i was happy with. if i had, then i would have bought some more to make this drink for other friends.

if you are looking for even simpler preparations, i've also come across references of people snacking on them as is with salt or a mix of salt and chili....similar to eating green mangoes.

if you come across persian green at your market, i'd highly recommend that you try them.

food porn: chao ga and pickles at home

food porn: strawberry pepper mint cocktail

for this cocktail i used the strained strawberry + black pepper puree that was leftover from the sorbet.

ingredients include:

dirty girl strawberries
black pepper
high west rye 16 yrs
mixed mint syrup (june taylor)
tonic water          

Monday, May 28, 2012

angry series

oftentimes, when i want to work through something....and i don't have the words to write, i'll work things out in my kitchen. sometimes, it isn't until later...when i'm tasting something that i've made that i realize "oh yeah, that is what that was about." this is pretty much what happened over the holiday weekend.

i've had the humphry slocombe cookbook for a while now. ever since humphry slocombe announced that they intended to write a book, i knew that i intended to buy it. i'm an advocate of their ice cream and duck fat pecan pies which has been extremely well documented in this blog. i wanted to buy the book to read about the stories and the behind the scenes activities associated with opening their place. it is a very good read. i had no intention of making their ice creams because i'd rather buy it from them when they appear at the ferry building farmers market or at their place in the mission.

yet, i bought a large amount of strawberries from dirty girl produce that i wanted to make into sorbets and found myself using two of humphry slocombe's recipes as guidelines for my sorbets....the cantaloupe cayenne as well as the thai chili lime sorbet. i say using them as "guidelines" the ingredients i used for the strawberry sorbets are different....yet, i used the recipe ratios as extremely helpful guidelines. i really like the texture and viscosity of their sorbets and wanted to replicate that. also, it seems that i was in the mood for extremely assertive flavors and humphry slocombe does assertive very well.

it seems obvious now where that stems from, but at the time, i just went with what seemed good to me.

when i was in my kitchen, for one of the sorbets....i worked out using strawberries, sugar, a homemade chichuacles bitter, champagne vinegar, and yuzu juice. tasting along the way....making changes here and there....until it was where i wanted it to be. i also decided not to strain it. then i chilled it for a couple of days before churning it.

once i churned it, i was quite happy with it.

strawberry. tartness. sweetness. bite.

there is nothing subtle about this flavor profile.

i call this flavor, "bitter strawberry chichuacles"

it isn't bitter....of is reference to the homemade bitters. this is one reason why it is good to be home cook....because naming a sorbet "bitter" would not likely go over very well when selling something to the public.

the second flavor was a result of me testing out various flavor combinations in many different glasses before making it into a base. it took a while.

then i found that there was something about strawberry, black pepper, coconut milk, and rangpur lime leaf syrup that really spoke to me.

it was like having puzzle pieces that just fit. i also decided upon honey as the binding agent. i made the strawberry black pepper yuzu puree and then strained it. then i added the seedless "clean" mixture to the coconut milk base.

i didn't waste the puree...i would use that later for cocktails as well as an impromptu "swirl".

i was a wee bit worried after it chilled for a couple of days that maybe i made it too thin...and it wouldn't churn. yet, it did....

when it was ready, i felt like this was something that fit my mood perfectly.

strawberry. coconut. building heat. a bite. cool creaminess. lingering warmth.

again, not subtle, extremely assertive. lovely really.

i call this flavor "berry angry".

then, because i was in the mood to see what happened. i added some of the strawberry black pepper puree as a "swirl" when putting this into containers for the freezer.

when i tasted it, i went "holy sh*t!"

it works. it really does. it really ups the ante though and pushes it right to the edge.

i call this flavor "apocalyptic strawberry".

it wasn't until i was done with all of the churning....more chilling in the freezer time....and plating that i realized  what i had made. i made some pretty angry sorbets. i suppose i should call them my angry series. there was nothing polite, subtle, or "nice" about them. they are spicy and spiced. they are passionately assertive and very in your face. these flavor profiles are not for everybody. they also push against what is typically acceptable for strawberry ice creams...or sorbets...but are still tasty. they are also appropriate for me at this moment in time. this is one of the things i love about cooking at home.

a friend tried the apocalyptic strawberry and said that it reminded them of something they would try from the case at the humprhy slocombe. i had to grin at that. then i told them that i used their cookbook for inspiration.  the flavor profiles that i did are different....yet, i'd like to hope that i paid a proper homage to the subversive spirit.

it seems appropriate. there have been many o' many times that i've sought out quiet moments with humphry slocombe ice cream at their place in the mission or at a bench around the ferry building. now, using the book as a guide...i was able to make something of my own that provides that same level of comfort.