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Grilled Romaine and Steamed Cod

June 29, 2011

THIS POST APPEARED ORIGINALLY AT GRILLHACKS.COM, SEE IT HERE.

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I get it, you’re asking yourself two questions right now: WTF is grilled Salad? And why is there steamed cod on grillhacks? Answers to follow.

Grilling romaine lettuce is a surprisingly delicious way to eat salad. To many the thought of semi-wilted salad greens is anathema to a quality meal, but I’m here to tell you those people are foolish. Romaine lettuce holds up especially well to all manner of cooking including braising and grilling. And I like the steamed fish as a nice counterpoint to the smoky char of the grilled lettuce.  It’s also something that can easily be done on a side burner if you’re using a gas grill, or in a steamer setup over coals.  Any number of poultry combinations could work here too…heck, even a hanger steak isn’t too much for grilled romaine.

Taking off from Adam’s earlier post I skewed way East in this iteration of my grilled salad, as you will see below.  Please try this at home, you will not be disappointed.

Here’s what you need:

16-20 oz. of line caught uber-fresh cod, cut into four even pieces.

1 head romaine lettuce.  Choose a stout one with a firm center.  Flabby leafy ones need not apply.

1 lemon, juiced

1 knob of ginger about 1″ long

Ichimi Togarashi (Japanese chili flakes)

Soy Sauce

Fish sauce

Sesame oil

Olive oil

Salt

Toasted sesame seeds and furikaki for garnish

Here’s what you do:

Start a pot of water with a steamer basket setup over low heat so that it’s ready when you need it.  Get your grill nice and hot.  In this instance, I was cooking indoors, so I used my Jade gas grill and a standard steamer basket in a stockpot.

Gently rinse your fish under cool water.  Set into a container and cover with 2″ of cold water, add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and let stand 15 minutes while you prepare your salad and dressing.

Halve your romaine lettuce LENGTHWISE taking care to cut evenly through the core.

Then cut the halves in half again, again carefully keeping the core intact.  This is critical as it will allow your lettuce to grill without falling into bits.  Plunge the hearts into a sink full of cold water.  Douse them over and over carefully, and then let them float a few minutes while you work on the dressing.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, 2T sesame oil, a healthy splash of soy and fish sauces and a good pinch of ichimi.  Grate your ginger on a microplane and then SQUEEZE the pile of shredded ginger over the bowl.  We just want the ginger juice, not the fibers!  Add 1/4T olive oil to balance the sharpness of the chili, ginger and lemon, and taste and adjust as needed.  Let stand.

Remove the lettuce from the water, shaking off the excess, and let them stand upright in a mixing bowl to drain further.

Remove the pieces fish from the brine and pat dry, let stand on a paper towel nearby as you will be cooking them shortly.  Turn the heat up to med-high on your steamer.

Generously douse your romaine lettuce with sesame and olive oil, season with salt and place them cut-side down on the grill.  Do not move them for one to two minutes as you need them to get an initial char.

Put a few drops of sesame oil on your fish and sprinkle with ichimi.  Place gently into your steamer and lower the heat back to medium.  We want a nice gentle steam for about 5 -7 minutes.

Turn your lettuce and check for markings and char.  Flip to the backside for another few minutes.  Check your fish.

When lettuce is done, remove from grill and plate.  Remove fish from steamer and add to the lettuce.  Generously spoon the sesame dressing throughout the four servings, and garnish with sesame seeds and furikaki.

If it were up to me, I’d be drinking a Hitachino Wheat to go along with this meal…but at like $5/12oz bottle, holy cow, you may want to stick to something local.  Either way, have fun!

Hello World, Grillhacks.com enters the fray.

June 29, 2011

I’m happy to announce the start of a great collaborative blog I’m working on with some good friends.  Between the three of us, we’re a foodservice consultant, a web developer, and a journalist.  Hopefully that translates into good writing, good food, and great SEO management!  We’re tackling grills, accessories, recipes and techniques, and of course, grillhacks.  What are grill hacks?  Innovative ways to enhance your grilling experience, be they products, recipes or lifestyle choices.

Please have a look at grillhacks.com when you get a chance.

Simple Greens

March 8, 2010

Glorious Greens

The NY Times has a good recipe for Winter Greens but it’s a little involved for me at the moment.  As I’ve never been a fan of over-cooked or boiled greens, I prefer preparations that cook them lightly.  Or dry them out as seen in part two.

Here’s two simple ways to prepare my favorite green – Kale – without much fuss at all.

Part One – Sauteed:   Take one head of lacinato kale (i prefer sauteeing lacinato, see below for normal curly kale…) and leaving the rubber band on the stems, cut the whole bunch in about 1/2″ segments, stems intact. Wash the cut leaves quickly under running cold water and leave to drain in a colander.  Be sure to shake them around quite a bit to get as much excess water off as possible.  You’ll see why in the next step.

Prepare a large saute pan (or wok) over medium-high heat.  When pan is hot, add two tablespoons good olive oil, a few slivers of garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add the greens in one large handful.  Be sure to do it with purpose!  If you linger with the greens over the pan, the dripping water will splatter something fierce.  If you do them all right at once, the splatters will be contained.

Immediately add two pinches of kosher salt.  Toss the greens around gently with a spoon or your favorite utensil.  As they begin to wilt down the splattering will subside.  As soon as the kale has turned to very dark green and they have all wilted they are ready to eat!  Use over rice with a side of stewed beans, as a topping for grilled fish, or simply as they are.

This preparation lends itself wonderfully to many different iterations.  Try adding a sprinkle of soy sauce or tamari during the saute phase, add walnuts or pine nuts…the earthy richness of the kale is a great background on which to paint your wintry green carnival.

Part Two – Crispy Kale:  First things first, pre-heat your oven to 200deg F.  Then take one whole bunch of curly kale and de-stem thoroughly.  The stems hold a great deal of moisture and will prevent effective drying.  Then take all of the leaves and tear them by hand into pieces approximately 2″ x 2″.  Don’t worry about measuring, but the pieces will shrink while drying, so you don’t want them too small.

Wash and spin-dry the leaves after they’ve been cut.  Arrange the leaves loosely on two cookie sheets.  If you have an olive oil mister, now would be the time to use it to spray them all evenly.  If you do not have a mister, simply drizzle olive oil across all of the torn pieces and mix around to insure they’re all coated evenly.  Sprinkle kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper across them all and place both cookie sheets in the pre-heated oven for 45min.

Once or twice during the cooking you will need to open the oven door (it helps release the moisture build-up) and toss the leaves around.  You want to keep them loosely arranged so they’re not touching.  Too much crowding and they won’t dry correctly.

Depending on your oven, they will be completely dry in the 45min range, more or less.  They’re ready once they are completely dry and crispy!

Pull the sheets from the oven and let them cool right on the sheets as the residual warmth will ensure a good crunch.  They will keep a few days if stored in air-tight containers.

You can sprinkle the finished kale on salads, eat them as a great anti-oxidant rich snack, or feed them to the kids.  They love ‘em!

Oakland Food Scene Gets Much Deserved Ink (That doesn’t include Temescal)

July 2, 2009

Love this piece in the times. Urban Homesteading in Oakland. Oak-town baby!

Gagnaire and This Cross Imaginary Line, Create Purely Synthetic Food

May 12, 2009

via UK Times Online

(Cross-posted at The Contrarian.)

A recent piece in the UK’s Times Online hipped me to some developments in my world that might be interesting in yours. Two scions in the genre of fine dining have teamed up for a foray into truly synthetic foods. Now, this chow may not be “made of people” like Soylent Green, but it still smacks of kind-of-disgusting if you ask me. The shame of it all is that both Herve This and Pierre Gagnaire were heroes of sorts to me. Particularly Gagnaire.

A bit in the way of backstory: Herve is a food scientist; that is a scientist focused on food. His work is credited as the foundation of today’s techniques known as Molecular Gastronomy, in the parlance of our times. He has mentored — directly or indirectly — each and every star in the MG constellation: Wylie Dufresne, Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz to name but a few. And, of course, Ferran Adria.

Now, I am not here to doubt or refute the value of their collective contribution to the world of cooking and eating — for it is not only immense, but also fantastic. (Take a moment to explore the links of those chefs I just mentioned. . . there is some very far out stuff there.) Gagnaire is a chef of extremely high regard, and his Paris temple of gastronomy, Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, has won hosts of awards over the years, including the coveted 3 Michelin Stars. His work is breathtaking, refined, elegant, etc. Also, it is very, very French.

Of the many tenets associated with MG, one of the foremost is that foodstuffs be mentally reduced to their elemental building blocks and reconsidered. What makes eggs do what they do, and how can we add to or diminish those properties? Do carrots need to be roasted in order to taste or appear roasted? Can we “poach” a chicken in an oven? What does it mean to coagulate vs. congeal, and how can we take the distinction to a logical conclusion about how best to prepare a given dish? As part of this process, most MG cooks use a host of additives and chemicals (not to mention highly specialized pieces of equipment) in the cooking process to achieve particular results — Fried Mayonnaise, Spherical Olives and the like. Yeah, these guys have a language all their own.

Gagnaire and This have been working together for some years, and they’ve now developed a series of dishes, called La note a note, derived in part or in whole, from purely synthetic sources. That is to say, rather then cooking carrots under pressure for a given time and then pureeing and/or reducing to concentrate the beta carotenes, they’re simply starting with the synthetic carotenes and “building” food from scratch. Certainly interesting from an analytical stance, but is it delicious?

Can food be considered merely the sum of its parts, or is there some nuanced — dare I say mystical — superiority to the wholesome foods “intended” by nature? Regardless of the preparation, I do believe that there is inherent value to beginning with actual food, rather than lab made synthetics.

From the Times Online:

[This] says compound cooking will enthral our taste buds — or, rather, our trigeminal nerve — and help to end food shortages and rural poverty because farmers could increase profitability by “fractioning their vegetables”.

Pretty lofty goals indeed, but fractioned vegetables? Really? Here’s the recipe for one such “foodstuff,” called Polyphenol Sauce:

Melt 100g of glucose and 20g of tartaric acid in 20cl of water. Add 2g of polyphenol. Boil and add sodium chloride and piperine. Bind the sauce with amylose. Take off the heat and stir in 50g of triacylglycerol.

C’mon then. . . is this even food? Granted, what they’re talking about is sugar, salt and a host of binding and flavoring agents. Cooking through chemistry is at least on some level familiar to the junk-food-addled minds of most Americans (Twinkies, man. . . Twinkies), but it’s possible these foreign chefs have stepped over a line with their fully synthesized food. Blinded by a purely scientific approach, they missed (deliberately, I imagine) the crucial conciet that food is more than its base building blocks. Or is it?

I wish Rudolph Steiner were here to comment on this, as his Demeter system for biodynamic farming  — which regards the whole farm as a living organism with a multiplicity of parts associated in myriad ways with the whole — is about as esoteric a tradition as can be found. In that system, there can be no base building blocks, no elemental compounds from which to build food. The whole is required to make the individual. . . they are inseparable.

Although I have long been fascinated with MG and laboratory techniques in the kitchen, I am not encouraged in the slightest by the notion that food, or the process of growing food, will lose completely it’s metaphysical attachment to the Earth, the Sun, and the seasons.

I Heart Harold McGee

April 15, 2009

This is so awesome. From today’s NY Times comes this piece about making yogurt at home.  It’s simple, easy, and satisfying.

Even if cultured dairy products aren’t part of your daily regimen, they’re worth making once in a while just to know how good they can be, and to experience the everyday miracle of fermentation.

Fermentation is indeed a miracle.  A wonderfully delicious and fantastic one.  Without it we’d have no kim chee, no beer, no yogurt – a life not worth living if you ask me.  As simple as that.

Thanks Harold…You Rock.

If you don’t already own On Food & Cooking, by all means, go buy it now.  Yay!

This Is Why We’re All Fat

April 3, 2009

By now you’ve all seen the wonderfully cynical and disgusting food-porn site ThisIsWhyYou’reFat and have shared some of your favorites with close friends and loved ones, but a little digging turned up a not so ironic list of similarly foul sounding junk food.  The state of Texas is known for many things – villainous ex-presidents, SXSW, etc. – and its culinary traditions are vibrant, strong, and often fried.

The Bigtex State Fair has a remarkable list of painfully fried foodstuffs in its annual contest.  Here\’s my favorite of the finalists…

Yup.  That's chicken fried bacon alright.

Yup. That's chicken fried bacon alright.

Only 174 days left until the grand fiesta.  Start exercising now so you’ll be fit as a fiddle for all the fine fixins’.

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