Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunshine in a Jar

I want to know why we don't get spring here in Stockfish, CA. We skip immediately to summer, later this week it will be in the upper 90s. So this seems appropriate enough. Slice oranges as thin as you can with a knife or mandoline. These are blood oranges and navels. Then dehydrate them thoroughly either in a machine or on your roof. These are machined, about 48 hours. Then heat a bottle of cheap chardonnay, add a pound of sugar to make a syrup. Throw in a few cloves and cassia buds. Fill jar with orange slices and pour over syrup. Let sit a few months until mid summer. Take out a single slice and lay it on top of a glass of ice cold gin. Pour over tonic if you must. Sunshine!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

High Tech Eggplant

Lest anyone accuse me of being unflinching in my Luddite proclivities, I think the recent IACP conference has nudged me into an oddly experimentalist (dare I say modernist?) direction. I have nothing against science per se. But honestly, I'm not into electric gadgets mostly because food tastes better using old tried and true processes. I'm not sure this does taste better, but it was fun. OK, so take an eggplant, and peel it with your baby blue kyocera peeler. Works like a charm. Then take out your mandoline (thanks Oxo folks) and slice the thinnest possible rounds. Salt lightly. Then put it into a serious MOFO dehydrator for a whole day. I bought that bitch. (NOT for myself). When it comes out, you have whisps of crispy eggplant. I was thinking I like the bitter liquid, so why salt and pour it off? Then drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and grate a raw tomato (without skin) on top. Season with pepper and oregano. And nuke it for a minute. So not really cooked. It's really spicy and lovely. Today I added some lemon juice and a little water to make it more tender and really cooked it. It sure looks like eggplant parmigiano, no? There's no cheese, but still quite nice, and not mushy, which is what happens when you just slice and nuke eggplants. OK, I am embracing the technology.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What is Comfort Food Anyway?

Pardon my absence folks, I was at the Renaissance Society Conference in San Diego, then the IACP in San Francisco (my panel with Sandor Katz, Maxime Bilet and Anne McBride on High Tech and Low Tech in the Kitchen went wonderfully). And then I was talking in Sonoma. But a day in between gigs I had an intriguing conversation with my freshmen food seminar, related directly to the dish you see here. One student's research project was on comfort food. I thought I knew what that term meant and we might, with some simple surveying, be able to figure out if there are differences among men and women, people of different backgrounds or ages, or something to make sense of the concept. At least we could decide that there are some basic flavors, textures, nostaglic dishes that work to comfort the tired, weary, stressed - such as I have been from travel. Absolutely NOT. Answers included soup and mashed potatoes, which I expected. But also sausages. (I can see that!) chocolate, ice cream and even cool water. Some students said spicy, others sweet. The answers were so random in fact that I am beginning to doubt the concept has any validity whatsoever.

All I know is that this dish here works as comfort food for my younger son. And me too incidentally. It's ordinary polenta, with butter and parmiggiano. And he's lately been turned on to shrimp. They're breaded in whole wheat panko (that they gave us at the IACP) and fried in coconut oil. They were absolutely succulent. A conceptual nod to shrimp and grits, but not in the least similar. You know, I think just cooking at home is a comfort after travelling for a week. OK So the question is What IS Comfort Food to You?