Friday, May 24, 2013

Thai Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)

Oh, this was really good. I think you'll like it a lot. I served it up with rice and called it a day. The recipe is adapted from a site I just love, Rasa Malaysia, which is featured on the ENJOYING sidebar on the right. Her recipes are reliable and I'm always happy with the result. If you haven't dabbled in Asian cuisine in your kitchen but are open to giving it a try, I highly recommend letting her be your guide. Here's that recipe:

Thai Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

1 T canola oil
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 T fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 big bunch of basil leaves, cut into very thin strips* (I used regular basil since I had it, but source Thai basil if you can)
6 bird’s eye chilies, chopped and pounded with a mortar and pestle) OR 1-2 fresh jalapeno cut into thin strips
2-3 turns fresh ground white pepper

Heat wok or large skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add oil, then chopped garlic and shallots. Stir fry the garlic and shallots until aromatic, for a minute or so, then add the chicken. When the chicken is cooked, toss in the chilies and the seasonings (fish sauce, sugar, and sweet soy sauce) and continue to stir-fry. Add in the basil leaves and do a few quick stirs until the basil leaves are wilted and fragrant. Add the pepper, taste for seasoning, and serve.

* to cut basil into thin strips, a/k/a chiffonade, stack 5-6 leaves on top of one another, roll into a cylinder and then use a sharp knife to make thin slices thru the cylinder. Repeat until you have about 1/3 cup of basil chiffonade.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Yes, Virginia, Copper River Salmon is All That

Alright, the marketing plan can take some credit. But the Copper River Salmon*, which makes its debut this time of year is fantastic. We had it tonight (from Whole Foods for $24.99/lb) along with roasted cauliflower, early season corn on the cob, Baby Romaine dressed with Champagne vinaigrette and  Tortone, a new loaf from Little Goat that was said to contain garlic and mashed potatoes, tho the garlic was MIA. The crust was crunchier and the crumb was gummier than I expected. It didn't disappoint, per se, but it didn't appoint either. It was, essentially, a forgettable loaf.

If an elephant eats a Tortone in the woods and considers it the most forgettable loaf of bread he's ever eaten but then a tree falls on his head and he experiences post-traumatic amnesia, does it mean he forgot about the Tortone or that he was physically incapable of accessing its memory? Or did the Tortone even exist in the first place?

But back to the salmon. I grilled it**, with just a pinch of my beloved Mendocino Seasoning Sand. I'm not too hawkish around the grill. Dinnertime demands multitasking (which I now understand to mean doing lots of things, poorly), and tonight was no exception. While the salmon grilled I was prepping some pastries for an event tomorrow, giving a lecture on the lesson behind a homework assignment, and brokering a laptop-sharing agreement between two hostile parties. The muffins came out well, nothing else. Anyway, you do want to be hawkish at the grill when Copper River is cooking because 1) it's bloody expensive and you don't want to ruin it, and 2) what makes Copper River Salmon so darned tasty is the fat. Omega 3s will light up your grill and torch your fish. My grill was alight when I checked on it, but the fish was fine. I flipped it and moved it to a cooler part of the grill and left the hood up so I could keep an eye on things.

* If you don't know what Copper River Salmon is, the short story is that it's wild salmon from a super cold river in Alaska. Is it better then other wild salmon from cold rivers in Alaska? I couldn't say.  Want a longer story? Check out:
The Copper River salmon craze: How the race began - The LA Times Fresh Copper River salmon lands in Seattle -

** Grilling method for salmon: I always grill salmon with the skin on a preheated grill for ten minutes, then grilled skin side up for about 5-6 minutes with grill lid down, then skin down for about 2-3 minutes (in this case with grill lid up, though usually I close it). I like the flesh to have an hombre interior - a little darker in the center. If you must, flake off a corner to observe the interior to determine doneness. Build your poke-test skills by gently pressing on the cooked surface. Proteins will firm up as they cook - the firmer they are the more well-done. Serve on a platter, family style.

Happy Copper River Salmon Season!

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Bread and Bagged Lunch

I have two new favorite sandwich breads: La Brea Take and Bake Ciabatta Rolls, and the Ancient Grains loaf at Whole Foods, pictured here.

The former was a lucky, but informed, guess. I met Nancy Silverton (of La Brea Bakery) once when she was visiting my boss's restaurant. They worked together years earlier. I was young and awestruck enough to convince myself of a personal connection to Nancy: Melinda and Nancy worked together. I work with Melinda. Ergo, I've worked with Nancy. If it weren't a complete lie it'd be a brilliant way to pad one's resume.

Anyhoo, I stumbled on the rolls at Treasure Island and thought they might work for the Caprese sandwiches my kids like so much. Now, I probably fall in the middle about obsessing over what goes in their neoprene lunchbags. I've got friends who make mid-day trips to school with their kids lunches so that the children will have a freshly prepared lunch. I've got friends (more fall into this category) who make their kids' lunches the night before. I'm capable of neither. Sometime in the window between my morning Americano kicking in and Crap!-It's-Time-to-Go-Or-You'll-Be-Marked-Tardy (on a good morning this is about 20 minutes, but it's usually more like 10-15), I consider what they had yesterday, what they are apt to eat that day (and not give away or toss), and a balance of treats:protein:whole foods.

The caprese sandwich is one they really like, but it's got to be made on baguette or ciabatta, and both are often less than great on Day 2 (Day 1 being the day before, when I bought the bread).  Enter the take and bake bread idea. Since Nancy does wonderful bread, I decided to give her's a go, and I give to two thumbs up. The take and bake baguettes are great, too. And both the baguettes and the rolls freeze well, meaning you can stock up a bit and bake them as directed right from the freezer. I recommend them for anyone who likes fresh bread in their lunch but who has to buy it in advance.

On to the Ancient Grains loaf. I am not a fan of the WF bakery. But this particular loaf has a really great flavor. I would use it as a substitute for our house sandwich bread: Trader Joe's sprouted grain. It would make great French Toast, too. I wouldn't buy it to serve at dinner - it's not crusty or glorious enough.

Caprese Sandwich
Print recipe only here

Makes two sandwiches

Two ciabatta rolls, or equivalent portion of baguette
1 ball fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil - amount varies but I use lots: from 4-8 leaves
1-2 T Extra virgen olive oil
3-4 t Balsamic vinegar (I like Colavita)
1 Roma tomato, sliced (the firmness of the Roma works well in a sandwich that will be eaten later in the day)
Pinch salt

Slice open ciabbatta or baguette. Pour the olive oil and balsamic into a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, or a spoon, brush over the both surfaces of the bread. Cover base of sandwich with basil leaves.

Slice the Roma and the mozzarella and sprinkle with salt, then divide between the sandwiches. Top with additional basil, if desired. My kids like extra basil because it prevents the bread from getting soggy.

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