You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
~Mae West

Homo naledi whose feet and teeth mimic homo genus but still bear human lineage were unearthed last month. These hominids with smaller than current brains and intracranial space have been dubbed a mosaic species due to their varied anatomical features. They are ancestors from some 2.5-2.8 million years ago, from the same genus which includes the famed Lucy. An average Homo naledi was about 5′ tall and weighed some 100 lbs.

Lithe, petite ladies — slender and agile enough to wriggle through the proverbial crack in the wall — snakily, shimmied and crawled down narrow limestone shafts and lightless tunnels in South Africa to gather fossils and skeletal remains bones and the like from the burial vault. It was breathtaking to watch how they adroitly slid down the scant walls and so carefully culled these bony artifacts from the dirt.

Paleoanthropology professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg was seated on the ground above poised before his laptop watching them dive and eagerly awaiting their safe return with their trove. They did not disappoint, even though some expressed concerns about trampling on such delicacies. As Dr. Berger remarked, “…there is no substitute for exploration.”

In the Rising Star Cave, these underground astronauts encountered tombs where many of the Homo naledi were interred by rituals which perhaps avoided scavengers.

Bok choy which translates to “white vegetable” in Chinese is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Not surprisingly, they are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A (carotenoids), potassium, folate, vitamin B-6, calcium, and manganese. Bok choy have smooth, glossy, spoon shaped leaves that cluster with a small base.

In some realms, smaller is better.

BABY BOK CHOY

1 T soy sauce
3-4 T oyster sauce
2 T rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Pinch of raw sugar

1-2 T peanut oil
2 T plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger root, peeled and minced
4-6 bunches of baby bok choy, with ends trimmed
3 T chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, raw sugar and rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy skillet (non-stick or not) placed over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger, then bok choy, and stir fry for about 2 or so minutes. Add stock to the skillet, then cover and allow to cook for a couple minutes more, until bok choy has softened some at the base. Toward the end, drizzle with the soy-oyster-sugar-vinegar sauce.

Remove bok choy and friends from the skillet and turn onto a platter or separate plates/bowls. We tend to serve bok choy sidled up to lemon grass chicken and jasmine rice or noodles (September 5, 2010), but it can be paired with a host of wokked, sautéed, roasted, or grilled main dishes, Asian or otherwise.

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Un Frisson: Poached Salmon

October 17, 2011

The journey not the arrival matters.
~T.S. Eliot

An old school angle of using moist heat to envelope this savory, pink friend.

Appearing in the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius’s De re Coquinaria, poaching has been in kitchen parlance for centuries. But, not until the 17th century, when fire became more manageable, did the technique truly blossom into vogue. The French call this method frisson, which is a moment of intense excitement—a shiver, a shudder, a thrill [from the Old French friçon, a trembling, from the vulgar Latin *frictio (friction), a derivative from Latin frigēre, to be cold]. Not to be boiled aggressively, but gently slipped into and simmered in an oh so delicate aromatic liquescence.

A detour worth embracing, indulging.

POACHED SALMON

3/4 C shoyu
3/4 C water
1 T raw sugar (turbinado)
2 star anise
8 green peppercorns
2 dried guajillo or ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved
1 1/4 lb salmon fillet, cut into two portions

Bunch of scallions, trimmed and halved

Combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, star anise, pepper corns and chiles in a heavy, deep skillet. Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the fish and enough liquid to completely cover the fish. Bring to a lively simmer. Poach until the salmon is just slightly opaque, about 10-12 minutes, turning once as the liquid becomes a glaze. Remove and discard the star anise, peppercorns and chiles.

Serve over jasmine rice, ladled with the sauce and garnished with the scallions.