Batter Licker

March 8, 2012

chinese barbecue (char siu) pork cowboy steak

The night before Valentine’s Day, Jay and I got more intimate than usual – with a pig.

That might sound gruesome and not in the least bit romantic, but I still feel like I’m under some sort of meaty love spell weeks after we eagerly watched Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats skillfully butcher the whole pig and explain the perks of each cut and his use-the-whole-animal philosophy during San Francisco Beer Week’s Butchers and Beers event.

Clearly, I’m my Great Depression era grandmother’s granddaughter; I’m a sucker for reducing, if not eliminating, waste. I get an intense thrill out of embracing resourcefulness and the creativity that inevitably plays a role in finding uses for less popular animal parts, apple peels, and vegetable scraps.

Perhaps it’s needless to say in this context, but once the Butchers and Beers silent auction benefiting The Food Pantry came to a close, we walked home with the bones and offal – and a large hunk of pork known as a cowboy steak.

Hilarious-and-ironic-to-me story from the auction: while waiting patiently to increase our bids, I overheard two guys in front of me whine “ewwwwwwww” when they came across the offal bid card; they were much more enamored with the super popular and trendy pork belly. (more…)

March 24, 2011

asian cabbage rolls with spicy lentils

When I saw Faith Durand’s recipe for Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Pork, I immediately decided that I had to make it, but with lentils in lieu of pork. Lentils work very well with garlic and ginger in Indian food, so I expected them to do just as well with the same base flavors augmented by the quintessentially Asian combination of sesame, soy, green onion, and cilantro. And they did.

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These spicy lentil-stuffed cabbage rolls were so packed with flavor (not to mention nutrients and other healthful qualities) and so satisfying that I craved them for a few days afterwards. (more…)

March 3, 2011

heirloom beans, broccoli rabe and pea shoots no-oil stir fry

Hardly a revelatory combination, beans and greens are typically spruced up with the standard flavors of Italy and southern regions of the United States. But I can only eat greens sauteed with garlic so many times before I start thinking I’m sick of the greens when, in fact, I’m actually sick of the repetitive flavors.

So I decided to branch out a bit and added some Asian flare to this hearty yet healthy dish.

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Part of my inspiration stemmed from the greens themselves, as broccoli rabe’s slightly bitter profile would clearly benefit from the bright and zesty ginger and the mild sweetness of the pea shoots. And, as I’ve mentioned before, pea shoots themselves taste similar to the snap peas found so often in Asian stir fry recipes, so I knew they’d be a natural match for a spicy Asian dish. But beans?

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Well, I can’t recall ever seeing beans featured in any of the wide variety of Asian meals I’ve had, except my favorite Vietnamese red bean and coconut milk drink dessert. Certainly not in a stir fry. But I had these lovely heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo on hand and already cooked, and I wanted to do something different with them. And why shouldn’t I?

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So I got to stir frying. (more…)

March 1, 2011

pea shoots, daikon radish and grated sweet potato salad with spicy sesame peanut dressing

On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.

Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.

Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.

I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand. (more…)

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