To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
~François de La Rochefoucauld

Yes, I have written about tuna more extensively in a post entitled Ahi “Nicoise” dated May 13, 2010 — look at the search box.  But, please abstain in devouring blue fin tuna as it appears low in numbers.

Then again, earlier (February 7, 2009) there existed here a post about ubiquitous steak tartare — although sublime, but with the firm texture of this finfish, tuna tartare is sapid, damn near nympholeptic.  This does not imply that steak tartare is equally divine, as both are toe curlers.  But, it is a cooling, light, dainty often app repast with tuna diced into chunks and fluidly soothed by Asian flavors (as below) in a chilled vessel, a dish which really did not emerge until recently about 3-4 or so decades ago…perhaps in Paris by a Japanese born, yet French trained, chef by the name of Tachibe — who knows?

A chilled dry white (preferably one that is French oriented or sauvignon blanc) or rosé is essential as quaff.

1/4 C canola oil
2 t grated fresh ginger, with some small chunks retained

1 – 1 1/3 lb sashimi (perhaps sushi) grade tuna, diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 t jalapeño, minced with seeds and veins removed
1 1/2 t wasabi powder
1/2 t mirin
1/2 t saké
1 t sesame seeds
1 T scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 T lime juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Non-pareil capers, rinsed
Caviar

In a bowl, add the ginger and chunks for a few hours to allow to marinate some in the frig.

In a large glass chilled bowl, add tuna to ginger oil as well as small ginger chunks, the cilantro, jalapeño, wasabi, mirin, saké, sesame seeds, scallions, lime juice, then mix well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Using fingers, very slightly strew over the tuna tartare with capers and then caviar.

Serve on chilled shallow glass salad bowl(s) over some flared avocado slices or cilantro or watercress, something like that or those kith and kin.

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Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

From the advent of the ancient Roman Empire (around 30 in the “before common era” or b.c.e.), neither humans, nor other flora and fauna, have experienced the extensive tidal flooding on coastlines.  In all probability, this dire situation, undoubtedly created by human activity, will worsen this century and next.  In the absence of carbon emissions, sea levels would be rising less rapidly.  But, assuming human discharges continue at the same high ratio, the oceans could rise by some four almost five feet by 2100 — that would prove disastrous by anyone who has visited or even lived near coastlines.

Already, the Marshall Islands are disappearing (a site of the battle of Kwajalein atoll in WW II).  The rising seas regularly flood shacks with salt water and raw sewage and saltwater and easily encroach sea walls .  The same will happen here and elsewhere. The losses and damages will be prodigious across the board.  As the burning of fossil fuels increases heat trapped gases in our atmosphere, the planet warms, and ice sheets melt into the oceans.  A warming, climate changed earth is not abstract.

It is simple physics — ice melts faster when temperatures rise.  Really?

Oh, and please do not allow the oil industry, chieftains of fossil fuels, off the proverbial hook. Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio as well as Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil, (the predecessors to Chevron) knew many decades ago of climate change, yet spent many millions and numerous exorbitant studies in a shameful smiling and deceptive handshaking campaign denying the same.

Also, to spin otherwise with “scripture” and an equally gimmicky snowball, Senator, is flatly immoral — mere showmanship and patent obfuscation. Displaying a snowball on the floor was his disturbing ruse to deny the existence of global warming.  Such an unwanted steward of the environment and so contrary to the evidence. By the way, do you have children and grandchildren, perhaps even great grandchildren, who get to shoulder your politically motivated, anti-scientific views and burdens?  Or are you just an angry octogenarian who does not care a whit or simply another paid for politician? Or maybe you just reject out of hand the Department of Defense report that unequivocally finds that climate change poses a national security risk and that global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability?

But, here is the real thing — organic chicken, binchoton charcoal, so the yaktori is both crispy on the outside and tender inside, homemade tare sauce, fresh and seasonal veggies and sake.

On to something more enticing, beguiling…焼き鳥

CHICKEN YAKITORI

2 lbs chicken gizzards, cleaned and trimmed
6 pieces boneless thigh meat, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1 1/2 C cold water
1/4 C kombu
1/4 C bonito flakes

1 C fine soy sauce
1/2 C mirin
1 C high quality saké
1/4 C raw sugar (turbinado)
garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 C grated fresh ginger

Scallions, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish

As stated above, cut chicken thighs into 1 1/2″ pieces and place with whole gizzards into a shallow dish.

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the water and kombu to a gentle simmer. Add the bonito and return to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 3 minutes.  Strain the kombu and bonito broth into a medium saucepan.  (This step can be axed if you are in a real hurry, but they provide more dimensional aromas and that umami sapidity to the dish.)

In that same medium heavy saucepan, add broth to the soy sauce, mirin, saké, raw sugar, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10-15 minutes, at least until until slightly thickened. Reserve a few tablespoons of sauce for serving. Pour remaining sauce over chicken, place in a sealed plastic ziploc bag, and refrigerate overnight.

When using wooden skewers, soak in water for an hour or so. Preheat barbecue grill with binchoton charcoal to medium high heat. Bring the meat to room temperature and then thread chicken pieces onto skewers, and grill, turning halfway, for a total of about 10 minutes for gizzards and about 6-8 minutes for thighs.

Serve yakitori drizzled with reserved and tare sauce and garnished with fresh scallions and varied vegetables.

Pourboire:

Tare recipe
1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C mirin
1/4 C soy sauce
2 T sake
3/4 t (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 plump fresh garlic clove, crushed
1 scallion, chopped lengthwise

 

Magical Miso(s)…

March 15, 2012

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
~Albert Einstein

Salty and complex, a revered Japanese staple — umami laden.

Miso (味噌) is a traditional, thick paste produced by fermenting rice and soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin. White miso (shiromiso) which is preferred in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe is milder than the red version (akamiso) which finds favor in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo. The lighter hue is often due to the inclusion of white rice during a notably shorter fermentation period. There is also yellow miso which is made from soybeans that have been fermented with barley and a smaller percentage of rice, and black which is crafted entirely from soybean.

Mysteries abound about miso’s Japanese origins. Some posit that miso developed from fermented foods found in China over two millennia ago which arrived on the Japanese shores along with Buddhism in the 6th century. Others trace the origins to the northeastern provinces of Japan where archeological digs suggest an early mastery of fermentation processes. According to Japanese mythology, miso was bestowed by the gods upon mortals to assure longevity and happiness.

Many find it tasking, even enigmatic, to classify the rich flavors of miso — definitely salty, a tad sweet, not quite bitter or sour, yet chocked with that fifth taste: subtle and exquisite umami. From a Nobu inspired cod forward, versatile but often underutilized miso runs the culinary gamut.

COD WITH MISO

1 1/2 lb. fresh black cod fillets

1/2 C sake
1/2 C hon mirin
1/2 C white miso
3 T raw sugar
3 T honey

Peanut oil

In a small saucepan, bring the sake and mirin to a gentle boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Then, add the sugar and honey and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until fully dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Reserve some of this marinade for plating.

Gently but thoroughly pat the fillets dry with paper towels, place them into a glass baking dish with a fitted top or a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal tightly and allow to bathe in the refrigerator overnight or preferably for 2-3 nights. Turn them occasionally to encourage an even coating.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Carefully wipe off any excess marinade clinging to the fillets but do not rinse under water. Place the fish in a lightly oiled heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté on both sides until just lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fish to the oven on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake until flaky, about 7-10 minutes.

Arrange over greens of choice on serving plates. Dabble some drops of marinade on the fish and plate, then serve.

Pourboire: black cod is also known as sable fish and has large pin bones, which are curved little bones that run along the fish’s centerline which need be removed with needle nose pliers.

MISO & SESAME VINAIGRETTE

1/2 C white miso
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
4 t white sesame seeds, toasted
2 t sesame oil
2 t honey

6 T grapeseed or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together miso, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and honey in a medium glass bowl. Slowly whisk in grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

MISO COMPOUND BUTTER

8 (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 T white or red miso
Freshly ground white pepper

Cream the butter and miso together with a fork, while adding white pepper.

Use immediately, or roll into a log in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for cutting into slices later.

Pourboire: Potential additions to the compound butter could include chopped scallions or chives, minced garlic, ginger or chiles, or citrus zest. Gently melt over freshly grilled or roasted meats, sautéed vegetables, etc. For red meats, choose a red miso which is much more rich and savory.

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain

For those ‘que souls who shamefully limit their grilling to fair weather, the season is upon you. Honor thy grill—light up. Rebirth it. Many love grilling in the chill.

A balance of sweet and savory, kalbi kui are a Korean culinary hallmark. In the mother tongue kalbi or galbi are translated as “beef ribs” and kui means “grilling.” Linguistic and culinary morphology converge, straight to the point.

Korean style short ribs can be found at Asian markets or your local butcher’s…you know, that carver with whom you have or should have curried favor. The cut, also known as “flanken,” refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Unlike American or European short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, around 9″ long, lined on one side with 1/2″ thick rib bones. The thin slices make for prompt grilling, so Kalbi requires vigilance and nurturing. Please have your grilling drink already at hand or you will surely overcook these succulent delicacies by stepping inside for a refill.

To serve Kalbi, cut into pieces with a heavy chef’s knife or hefty kitchen shears, and then wrap inside a crisp lettuce leaf with a slathering of steamy white rice, a swab of gochichang (Korean red bean paste), a sauce/condiments or two, toasted sesame seeds and green onion slivers.

Kimch’i, the ubiquitous and revered Korean pickled cabbage side dish varies rather widely according to region, season and kitchen. For instance, a coastal kimchi will be saltier than that of a landlocked area, and summer cooks produce cooling water kimchis to contrast with the heartier cabbage kimchis of the autumn and winter. Korea boasts hundreds of differing kimchi recipes, each rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins fostered by the lactic acid fermentation of cabbage, radish, and other vegetables and seafood.

The kind of food you are destined to fall for…

KALBI KUI (GRILLED KOREAN BEEF SHORT RIBS)

4 lbs beef short ribs, Korean style
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey

1 C soy sauce
2 T canola oil
1/4 C mirin (rice wine)
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely grated
1 Asian pear, peeled and grated
8 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves
Cooked white rice
Gochichang (red bean paste)
Sauces/condiments as below
Toasted sesame seeds
Green onions, thinly sliced lengthwise

Mix sugar and honey with beef and mix well to evenly coat. Set aside while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag. Add marinade and seal well. Turn bag several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate at least overnight, turning the bag a few times more while marinading.

Heat charcoal grill to medium high. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve in lettuce leaves as described earlier.

Pourboire: many cooks prefer to use a cup of citrus soda (7up, Sprite, et al.) in lieu of the sugar and honey in the marinade claiming that it further tenderizes the meat.

BAECHU KIMCH’I

1 head Napa or Chinese cabbage, cored and finely shredded
Water, to cover
1 C coarse sea salt

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 C rice wine vinegar
2 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 – 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 C+ red chili flakes or 1/3 C chili paste (to taste)
1 medium daikon radish, peeled and grated
2 T sugar or honey
1/4 C peanut oil

In large glass bowl, dissolve the salt into the water. Add cabbage to salt water and if necessary, weigh down with large plate so leaves remain submerged. Soak cabbage in refrigerator for 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. Remove cabbage and rinse in cold water, squeezing out excess liquid.

Place rinsed cabbage and green onions in a large glass bowl.

In a processor or blender, combine rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chili flakes or paste, radish and sugar or honey, blending until smooth. With the blade running, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture over the shredded cabbage and onions, and gently toss.

Pack the kimchi in a large, well fitted glass jar and cover tightly. Let stand for one to two days in a cool place, around room temperature. Check the kimchi after 1-2 days. Once bubbles appear on the surface, place in the refrigerator. It should be refrigerated for 2 days before serving to allow the cabbage to further wilt and the flavors to meld. Kimchi will grow increasingly pungent as it sits, so it is ideal after about 2 weeks and surely eaten within a month.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.

Salmon on Cedar

February 13, 2010

I’ll love you dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.
~W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The Vancouver Winter Olympics have been unleashed, albeit with a tragic opening on the luge course. Young slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia, suffered a fatal crash on a training run on day one. A sad, somber start to these games which are so brimming with hope and passion.

First Nations refers to the indigenous peoples of what is now Canada, with the exception of the arctic Inuit and peoples of mixed ancestry called Métis. The Pacific Coast First Nations refer to those those that trace their ancestry to the aboriginal people that inhabited the land that is now British Columbia prior to the European invasion and brutal colonization of the Americas. Centuries of scorched earth policies and ethnic cleansing followed. Indigenous civilizations under European occupation were severely dismantled, many eliminated, and vast numbers of the people exterminated.

A sumptuous pairing of earth and ocean, cedar plank grilled salmon likely originated with natives in the Pacific Northwest, including those who inhabited Vancouver Island. The name sockeye is actually believed to be derived from the Coast Salish name “sukkai,” translated as “fish.”

Typically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. So, natives would spear or club the then plentiful salmon from the shores of inland streams during the annual spawning runs in the late summer or early fall. The fish were brought back home for cleaning and smoking, then stored for the hard winter months ahead. The catch was hung over open fires or tacked to native cedar slabs and then slowly cooked, absorbing the natural flavors from the smoke, fire and wood. Later, huts were built to collect and further intensify the flavors and aromas.

The earliest written recipe for plank cooking appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1911, authored by the venerable Fannie Farmer.

MISO GLAZED GRILLED SALMON ON CEDAR

1/2 C red miso
1/2 C mirin
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
3 T soy sauce
1/4 C green onions, minced
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 T sesame oil
1 T wasabi powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 salmon fillets, 8 oz each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the miso, mirin, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, wasabi powder and cayenne in a medium bowl. Reserve enough of this miso glaze in another bowl to brush on salmon while grilling.

Remove any remaining bones from salmon fillet. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the salmon in a baking dish, pour the miso marinade over, and turn to coat well. (You may prefer to use a heavy, zippered plastic bag.) Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning a few times.

Meahwhile, soak cedar plank in salted cold water for no less than 2 hours, totally immersed, then drain.

Prepare grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium high. Arrange salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank and then place in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Brush with miso glaze once or twice during the grilling process.