Sunday, October 18, 2009
After I left Merce Cunningham’s dance company, I went to culinary school. The final part of our instruction entailed an internship at a restaurant, and since I had work in Chicago for a few months staging a piece of Merce’s, I decided that I’d like to work for a Chicago-based chef. I did a little research, and found Grant Achatz, molecular gastronomist, and now of Alinea Restaurant fame, who was then the chef at Trio restaurant in Evanston, Illinois.
There is a restaurant camaraderie that doesn’t exist in most jobs. Forced to spend hours and hours together, and work through stressful situations, an easy closeness develops in a short period of time. At 34, I was the oldest person, and only woman in the kitchen, and what might have been a recipe for disaster, turned out to be a wonderful experience. The chefs encouraged me, respected me, and guided me through the difficult work of a Mobil guide five star restaurant, one of only 13 in the country at the time.
Soon after beginning at Trio, chef Achatz sent me into the pastry kitchen to work under chef Curtis Duffy, now chef de cuisine at Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula hotel. Immediately intimidated by his knife skills while watching him swiftly cut papaya into perfect brunoise (1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch cubes), I was nervous to do much of anything for fear of messing up, but Curtis’s welcoming nature helped me to feel part of the kitchen, and he and another talented chef, John Peters, became my friends.
Chef Curtis has been asking me to come to Chicago to eat at his restaurant for awhile now, and next weekend I’m finally going. John Peters and I will be joined by two other friends, and we’ll sit at the chef’s table with a view of the action in the kitchen. Curious to eat chef Curtis’s highly acclaimed food, which I will surely discuss here afterward, I am also interested to see the interaction of the people in the kitchen, and hope they are learning as much and having as much fun as I did.
Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe
from Peter Berley’s, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
1 1/2 cup shelled pecans, roughly chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup olive oil, unrefined corn oil, or melted unsalted butter (I use olive oil)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose or white bread flour (I use flour with the germ intact)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cut cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly milled black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.
2. Spread the pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl to cool.
3. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender.
4. In a blender, combine the water, sweet potatoes, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup. Puree until creamy. Alternatively, pass the potatoes through the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl, then whisk in the water, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.
6. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the sweet potato mixture and the pecans. Do not over mix -- a few lumps won’t matter, and you will wind up with lighter, fluffier, biscuits.
7. Drop the dough 1/2 cup at a time 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets for even browning. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a biscuit comes out clean.
8. Serve warm.
Yield: 1 dozen biscuits.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe,
German Good Friday Pancakes Recipe, Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust Recipe
Saturday, October 10, 2009
When I was in college, I skipped breakfast, ate popcorn and diet coke for lunch, and made tuna fish sandwiches or pasta with red sauce for dinner. It’s a wonder I’m still alive. My students at Juilliard are fortunate to receive nutrition counseling, and I am impressed to see them eating fruit, yogurt, and nuts between classes (protein and carbohydrates are necessary for muscle recovery, especially immediately after exercising), and from tupperware containers packed with leafy greens, sweet potatoes, lean meats or beans, and whole grains for their main meals.
The following recipe is for my former student Doug, who lives in Israel now. Doug is a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, an excellent dancer, and is making his way as a young member of the Batsheva Dance Company. He wrote to me a while ago saying that he is interesting in expanding his culinary repertoire, and that a recipe he made for coconut curry from The Joy of Cooking was lacking. Actually, what he said was, “I just made a chicken coconut curry recipe from The Joy of Cooking and it sucked. Edible but uninspiring.”
This one doesn’t suck. It is from the New York Times, and has been tested by them and by me, more than a few times. Forget conventional chicken noodle soup; to me, these complex, spicy citrus flavors are the ultimate comfort when autumn arrives. Enjoy, Doug; this is heaps better than a tuna sandwich for dinner, and more fun to make, too.
Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup (Curry Mee): a recipe from the New York Times located here.
Note from Banu: This time I poached a whole cut-up chicken for 45 minutes in a couple of big pots of low-simmering water infused with some cilantro stalks, a few crushed garlic cloves, some curry leaves, and a sliced up onion. I removed the chicken pieces, shredded the meat as I picked it off the bones, and returned the bones to the simmering broth for about another hour and a half. I strained the stock, used half of it for the soup, and froze the other half for another use. Since the chicken was already cooked, I added it at the last minute, along with the noodles. I like this soup with chicken, but I am sure this would be fantastic with some shiitake mushrooms and tofu, for a vegetarian version.
I ate little bits of this soup all week, so cooked the noodles (I used mung bean noodles this time) at the last minute, so they wouldn’t get soggy. Also, I garnished with sunflower sprouts instead of bean sprouts, and I forgot to garnish with the cilantro for the picture, but it's a lovely addition to the flavors of this soup.
Time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced lemon grass or pale green cilantro roots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dark red chili paste, such as sambal, more for serving
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast meat, thinly sliced and cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Malaysian, Thai or Vietnamese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
About 12 kaffir lime leaves or curry leaves, fresh or frozen (optional)
8 ounces dried thin rice noodles (bun or vermicelli), or other Asian noodles such as udon or lai fun
Salt to taste
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 scallions, cut into thin rings
2 shallots, thinly sliced and deep fried in vegetable oil until brown (optional)
Quartered limes for serving.
1. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and lemon grass and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Do not brown; reduce heat if necessary. Add garlic and chili paste and stir until fragrant. Raise heat, add chicken and stir-fry one minute. Add curry powder and paprika and stir to coat. Then add coconut milk, half-and-half, chicken stock, turmeric, fish sauce, sugar and lime or curry leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles in boiling water according to package directions (about 4 minutes). Rinse and drain.
3. Taste broth and adjust seasonings with salt and sugar. Divide noodles into large soup bowls. Bring broth to a boil, then ladle over noodles. Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions and fried shallots, if using. Pass limes and sambal at the table.
Yield: 4 main-course servings.
Note: To make this rich soup more substantial, boiled potatoes are sometimes added to the simmering broth and cooked until very soft.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup Recipe, Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe, Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Except for breakfast, I haven’t been so hungry lately. In the mornings, I might have whole grain toast with a little flax oil, some cheese (maybe a goat milk gouda, or some chive-spiked English Gloucester), perhaps a bit of avocado, some cherry tomatoes, green tea (or coffee, depending on the amount of sleep I’ve gotten), and a piece of fruit. If I have a sweet tooth in the morning (unusual, but occasional), I’ll have some granola with yogurt, or peanut butter or almond butter on toast with honey in the comb or jam, or, if it’s the weekend, I might imagine making biscuits or French toast to share with a virtual someone. But the part of my day that involves eating in the hours after breakfast is being largely ignored lately.
After traveling for much of the summer, I’m only now again embracing the routine of cooking to pack my lunches, and last week I made some very weird food. To satisfy the Mexican food craving that inevitably hits after a long trip to Europe, I made enchiladas filled with tempeh, leeks, chipotle chiles, goat cheese, maitake mushrooms, and topped with salsa verde. Immediately out of the oven, I hated everything about my improvised meal, but packed for lunch the next day with some refried beans, additional chipotle chiles, and sour cream, it was actually pretty tasty, and reminded me why eating food at lunchtime is not a bad idea.
But the most memorable thing I ate this week is a burger I had at a friend of a friend’s house, on the rooftop, from the grill. Not for the burger itself, but for the accidental semi-raw entire piece of garlic I found in the burger, a piece of garlic that I didn’t remove, but chewed up eagerly, thinking I was likely to head home soon, and wouldn’t further talk to anyone I didn’t know. I don’t think I’ve been in a relationship with someone who didn’t like garlic, so I’ve generally had a partner eating the crushed cloves in my simple tomato sauces, the cloves that my friend Julia’s Roman boyfriend, while instructing me in the traditions of Italian cooking, advised me to take out once the sauce has finished simmering. I have not been alone in smearing the roasted cloves on toast, devouring the crispy ones whole, Mexican-style, with some toasted arbol chiles and peanuts as a snack, or eating the intense raw garlic yogurt sauces that are so popular in Turkish cooking.
When I was just out of college, I was seduced by the lingering smell of cut garlic on my future boyfriend’s hands; a sign that he was generously cooking dinner for his friends and family, that he understood the sensuality of food and cooked with my favorite flavors. I’m single again, now, yeah, and I’m sure that any new guy I’d like to share food with will not be bothered by a little garlic breath. He will probably have it, too.
Enchiladas Verde with Tempeh, Leeks, Goat Cheese, and Maitake Mushrooms Recipe
For the salsa verde:
about 16 tomatillos, husked, washed, and quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño, cut into pieces
half a bunch of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
For the filling:
1 medium leek, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
2 8 oz packages of tempeh (I used flax seed tempeh), cut into medium-sized cubes
about 4 oz of fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 large maitake mushroom, cut into pieces
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced, plus a little of the adobo sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
about 12 corn tortillas
To make the salsa verde:
Purée the first four ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat and cook gently for about fifteen minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and set the sauce aside.
To make the filling:
Heat a little oil in a large pan and sautée the leeks until soft. Remove them, set aside, and let cool.
Pan-fry the tempeh in a little oil until browned on all sides. You may have to do this in batches, so you don’t crowd the pan. Set aside to cool.
In a medium sized bowl, mix all the ingredients together, and set aside.
To make the enchiladas:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat a small pan over medium heat and gently warm the corn tortillas until pliable.
Pour a little of the salsa verde into the bottom of the pan you will cook them in so the enchiladas won’t stick to the bottom.
Fill the corn tortillas with the tempeh-leek mixture, roll them up, and place them next to each other, seam side down, in the pan.
Smother the enchiladas with the salsa verde, and cook, covered, for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Similar posts from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas Recipe, Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe, Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos Recipe