Food from the past couple of weeks...starting with 9pm supper for one.

  • 9pm supper for one: fried purple potatoes with onions, rosemary and smoked chicken sausage, plus a salad of dandelion greens, fancy radishes, heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, brie cheese and Vidalia onion dressing
  • Peach picking at Farmer's Daughter: hanging out by the barn with a picnic under a big tree (that's the life!), stone fruit galette I made with the spoils
  • Dumpling-making: like old ladies around a kitchen table.  Pork potstickers steam-fried.
  • 'Off the Grid' roaming mobile food party: tuna and pickled eggplant rice balls from Onigilly, assortment of tacos from Kung Fu Tacos, pork belly and spicy chicken from Chairman Bao
  • Artful dinner at Jules': sesame panna cotta topped with blackberry mousse, seared figs and bananas, mediterranean chicken stewed with prunes and potatoes, broccoli rabe, and couscous.

10pm supper for one: Gnocchi in egg sauce and purple carrot stir-fry

If you meet a picky eater who won't eat his/her veggies, maybe you ought to try feeding that fussy-fuss some PURPLE VEGGIES.  Because they are so much fun, and tasty besides.  You may already know I have a penchant for purple things that normally come in other colors.  I should clarify: I have a penchant for purple vegetables that normally come in other colors.  Bruises and other bodily injuries do not count.

I got these gorgeous purple carrots from, where else, Berkeley Bowl market.  I love getting things there that I can't get anywhere else.  I was dismayed to see that the purple color was so delicate - even rubbing the carrots too vigorously while washing took away a lot of the color, so I didn't even bother peeling them.  

I thought maybe like potatoes and bell peppers, the purple color would turn brown upon cooking, so I tried a couple bites of raw carrot and made a face.  I do not like raw carrots.  So I cooked it.  With sliced zucchini, mushrooms, and lots of garlic!  The purple color ended up holding well, which made me happy. I'd say it was a delicious success.  Lovely earthy texture, and the flavors went so well together I just wanted to shovel it in my mouth and dish some more.

Anyway, for starch I was attempting to make a supposed carbonara sauce and failed, but it was still tasty.  I even browned the butter before frying my gnocchi in it.  But the gnocchi were much too hot, and as soon as I dumped my egg/parmesan mixture, it curdled and became scrambled eggs.  I tried to thin the mixture with some pasta water but it was a no-go.  Scrambled eggs they were, and scrambled eggs they remained, with delightful little lumps of potato gnocchi.  Finished off with some salt and pepper, it still made a wonderfully simple and satisfying dinner.

Foodie Tuesday, 1 day late: Blue Corn Pancakes

In keeping with my growing love for purple things, I thought it appropriate to share this discovery I made at Rainbow Produce about a month ago: blue cornmeal.  As soon as I saw it, my mind started racing, thinking of all the great things I could do with blue cornmeal.  Blue corn tamales. Blue cornbread and blue corn muffins.  Blue corn pizza dough!

But the first and most obvious thing to do with the cornmeal was this: blue corn pancakes.  Because they are AWESOME.
I adapted a couple different recipes that I found online (weeks ago... I can no longer find them because of the f-ing Google search algorithm change).  They are all more or less the same: varying portions of blue cornmeal, white flour, egg, melted butter, sugar, baking powder, salt.  I put it together and was mildly alarmed at how thin the batter was.  I had to keep whisking it so the ingredients would stay incorporated, and they made for some really flat, thin pancakes (you can even see holes through them, below).

But what I really love about these pancakes is that they are so versatile.  They have a hearty texture and nuanced flavor, and they can go either salty or sweet, opening up a world of possible accompaniments.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • Wildflower honey: the deep, nuanced flavor of really good honey plays beautifully against the rich nuttiness of the pancakes.
  • Avocados
  • Creme fraiche
  • Honey butter
  • Eggs
  • Any number of fruit preserves and jams
  • Smoked salmon
  • BACON!

Foodie Tuesday, 3 days late: Wouldn't you like to be a pepper, too?

I am quickly developing a penchant for purple and blue food items that are supposed to be another color.  What do I mean?  I'm thinking purple potatoes, purple cauliflower, purple carrots.  Besides being extraordinarily high in anti-oxidants (much like blueberries, the so-called "brain food"), I think they're more delicious than their conventionally colored counterparts.  They're nuttier, earthier, and generally richer in flavor.

Plus, I don't think I'll ever get tired of the novelty of eating something purple that is not grapes or eggplants.

So the other day I was wandering the produce section at Berkeley Bowl when I came across this strange thing next to the green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers.  A purple pepper!  I'd never seen anything like it before.  Of course I grabbed one just so I could take it home, cut it up, see what's inside, and know what it tasted like.
And whaddya know, inside it wasn't purple at all, but white.  Maybe a tinge of green, but I was delighted to see the beautiful contrast of colors.  I turned to Google for some purple pepper recipes, but came up rather short.  Apparently it's a shame to cook the peppers because that kills the gorgeous color, and anyway purple peppers are actually the least ripe of all peppers and the least sweet (left on the vine, purple peppers will eventually turn green, then yellow/orange/red).

So I just sliced it up and stuck it in a salad.  Can't say it had a ton of flavor but it added a nice crispy texture.  I'll definitely be getting them again.

P.S. The title of this post refers to the old Dr. Pepper slogan, which I first heard in the movie Short Circuit (I know, I'm dating myself now).
P.P.S. Yes, I created a new tag called "Purple Things"!  Stay tuned for blue corn pancakes!

Foodie Tuesday: First attempt at Peruvian Saltado

Hey guys, sorry for the flood of food posts but I guess food's one of the few things that make sense in this mad, crazy world.

I probably ate this first at El Polla Inka in Anaheim sometime during high school.  It was pretty tasty, but it wasn't until I had it at Mario's Peruvian Seafood--on the eastside in LA, close to Larchmont Village/Hancock Park (it's technically Mid-Wilshire)--that I was blown away.  I went back for more, tried it multiple times in various combinations.  I decided the two best versions are lomo saltado (beef) and saltado mariscos (some mix of shellfish usually).

So what is a saltado exactly?  I understand it to be a stir-fry of sorts, made with your choice of meat (most traditionally beef, but also chicken, fish, shrimp), red onions, tomatoes, and french fries, served over rice.  The meat is marinated with a mixture of soy sauce and spices.  

Since moving to the Bay area I've had saltado at Mi Lindo Peru, on the border of the Mission district and Bernal Heights in SF.  Most of the saltados are solid, but the seafood saltado, with its delicate mix of shrimp and squid, is great.
It never occurred to me that I could re-create this dish at home, until I got some leftover home fries after eating out the other day and thought I could incorporate them into my own version of saltado.

I started with this very informative article on Chowhound, but made a few tweaks of my own. I was surprised the dish came out so well, but the key was to have a very hot carbon steel (or cast-iron) wok over a gas flame. It's imperative for getting the right caramelization and browning/crusting on everything. 
This is what I did:
  • I used frozen basa (sole) fillets which I sliced and marinated in some soy sauce with cumin powder, paprika and ground pepper.  I didn't have quite enough basa so I used some of the fancy smoked salmon I bought but didn't marinate that.
  • I went all-out and used Peruvian blue/purple potatoes for the fries.  Sliced them up to steak-fry size and deef-fried them in a heavy pan. Blue potatoes have a deliciously nutty flavor and richer texture than regular potatoes.
  • Roughly cubed two tomatoes off the vine along with half a red onion.  Threw the onions into a very hot wok with minced garlic and let it brown/char a bit, then cooked until it was only slightly wilty.  Added the tomatoes and stir-fried it for just a minute or two, just enough to "warm up" the tomatoes.
  • Lastly, wiped the wok off a bit and made sure it was super hot before throwing on the fish to brown.  Cooked on one side for 1 min. and the flipped, being careful to scrape each piece off the wok along with its delicious browned crust.  Cooked the other side until done.
  • Tossed everything together.  Served over brown rice (extra healthy!)
Warning: Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated!  The amount of steam/smoke you create while cooking this dish is unbelievable.

Not-so-sufferin' succotash

I don't really have much to say about this, except it's the first time I made succotash, and it was just a mixture of stuff I had around in the fridge: leftover purple potatoes from the pizza Garry and I made yesterday, leftover red onion, leftover zucchini, frozen edamame, and the star of the dish, white corn I bought at Arata Farm over the weekend.

I like how prettily the purple mixes with the green and pale yellow.  It was yummy, too.

Purple Potato Pizza

CPK, eat your heart out.

Garry had a bag of Peruvian purple potatoes in his crisper for the last couple of weeks and I've been eyeing them with purple mashed potatoes in mind.  Today we were going to do a chicken stir-fry with mushrooms and bean sprouts, but I looked at the contents of his fridge and realized we had all the makings of a fantaaaaastic pizza.  

The first time I saw potato pizza on a menu, I was skeptical, but Pizza Antica changed my mind.  The starch-on-starch may sound redundant, but it's fantastic in texture and flavor.  You can't just use any old potato though--a nice rich one like a Yukon Gold or these purple potatoes works best.

  • TJ's herb pizza dough.  Next time we may try whole wheat instead.
  • TJ's pesto (soo good!)
  • Barely grilled chicken breast, cut into cubes (it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through because it'll keep cooking when you bake the pizza and you don't want it to get tough)
  • 3 purple potatoes, sliced and zapped in the microwave for 1 min.
  • Sliced crimini mushrooms, toasted in the toaster oven to get rid of the juices
  • A bit of thinly sliced white onions
  • Mozzarella cheese

We're slowly learning that when it comes to pizza, one had best exercise restraint.  Usually we're tempted to load a zillion toppings on our pizza, and while hearty and tasty, it sometimes gets soggy and just comes off as kind of...crass.  We're not quite where we need to be in terms of pizza-minimalism, but today was a step in the right direction: every ingredient was necessary, and the whole was a lot greater than the sum of all parts.  The only thing I might have added is a drizzle of truffle oil.

Needless to say, you can't get a pizza like this anywhere, but if you could, it would probably cost like $25 (with the generous amt of toppings involved).  Plus I like how, as Garry quipped, it's "shaped like Oregon."