I wrote about lard sometime last summer, and how people (Mexicans aside) tend to freak out about it. Since then I’ve noticed there’s something of a Pork Renaissance under way. People aren’t so scared anymore. Pork shoulder and baby back ribs are being served again. We’ve even got a bacon food truck here in L.A. More
31 Jan 2011 2 Comments
27 Jan 2011 16 Comments
Lately I’ve been contemplating getting a wood-burning pizza oven. Our friends have a beautiful built-in outside and they invite me over to cook in it sometimes, and I get oven envy and mope for days. I found a very nifty pre-made one from Italy online (fornobravo.com), and my wife and I are currently in negotiations… Anyway… More
23 Jan 2011 2 Comments
I was wandering the fresh fish aisle of my favorite Japanese market, contemplating what to buy for a sushi dinner, when some particularly beautiful clams caught my eye.
I love clams. My family does not. My kids mistrust small chewy dark things, and my wife is generally squeamish about bivalves. More
19 Jan 2011 11 Comments
The Italians know something we Americans often don’t. That is, that sometimes the most wonderful dishes are the most basic. If you’ve got fresh, great quality produce and make the right flavor combinations, the simplest things will be the most delicious. And here I share with you one of my favorites.
Arugula may be the best of all herbs. It grows wild in places like Greece and Italy, where old toothless guys with walking sticks and baskets and faithful hound dogs named Pirot forage for it on barren hillsides. It’s easy to grow, at least in California. Let it go to seed, and you’ll have little wild arugulas popping up all over your yard. And you and your kids can get a basket and pretend you’re foraging, too.
Peppery, floral and complex, its flavors become even more sublime when it is combined with five additional ingredients — fresh lemon juice, best-quality extra virgin olive oil, shaved aged parmesan, freshly cracked pepper and flaky sea salt such as Maldon. As beautiful and sophisticated as it is simple.
My 7-year-old son who is suspect of anything green will devour as much of this salad as I will serve him, he loves it so. You will too:
Italian Arugula Salad
1 cup arugula per person
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly shaved aged parmesan reggiano
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Choose nice looking plates. Spread a cup of arugula artfully around each plate. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, one or two good squeezes per plate should do it. (You should be able to drizzle all four salads with a single lemon.) Then drizzle each salad with your best olive oil. Sprinkle some salt over the top, and a twist or two of freshly ground pepper. Top each with some shaved parmesan. Serve immediately, perhaps as the first course in an Italian dinner.
Wine suggestion: A nice, light pinot grigio or floral sauvignon blanc.
Coolest pepper mills on earth: www.peppermills.ca
15 Jan 2011 2 Comments
I love the Japanese! You know why? They make everything taste so good!
I got an email from my mom not long ago, asking me if I knew where her friend could find a product called “Umami” in a tube. Some clever person has pureed tomatoes, anchovies, mushrooms, etc., and put them in a nicely designed tube and is charging an obscene amount of money for it. More power to them. “That’s a lot to pay for tomato paste,” I said when my mom asked my opinion.
In case you’ve been stuck in your cave in the past several years and haven’t heard of “umami,” it’s the “fifth taste”. In other words, it adds “savory” to the canon of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami was “discovered” in 1908 by the Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda. It was found in konbu seaweed and dried bonito flakes — the makings of the Japanese fish stock known as dashi. Later, it was identified and synthesized into the dreaded substance, monosodium glutamate. MSG. Voila! The reason everything the Japanese do tastes so good. (Well, not the only reason. But a big part…)
Fast forward, and every chef and his foodie brother is talking umami. It’s on menus, in cookbooks… people have even put it in the name of their restaurants. The Italians and French are singing its praises, even the Germans are jumping on board. And of course, many of the things they’ve always made and cooked with — parmesan cheese, fish, mushrooms, sauerkraut — are all rich in the unique profile of amino acids and ribonucleotides known as umami. Heck, it’s found in breast milk. The taste for umami is established early!
Is “umami” real? Can you add it to your food? Should you buy a tube of umami and will that catapult you into the stratosphere of the world’s finest chefs? Ummm…
My advice? Save the money you were gonna spend on your tube of umami paste for some nice steak or a lobster. Here’s how to make an umami paste yourself — you may find it adds savory zest to your food. Or go out and get yourself some MSG:
Add a tablespoon or so to pasta sauce, soup, sandwiches, whatever… And may the fifth taste be with you.
In a small food processor, place the following:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 anchovy fillets
6 oil cured black olives, pits removed
1 tsp capers
2 tbsp olive oil
Store in a small jar in your fridge. Will keep for a month or more.