Winter Soba Salad with Miso-Grapefruit Dressing

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake.  I recently just had soba for the first time, and I don't know why I waited so long to try them, but I'm very glad that I did.  Soba is Japanese for buckwheat, and that's exactly what these noodles are.  The thin, chewy, buckwheat noodles have a distinctly nutty flavor, unlike any other noodle that I had tasted before.  Needless to say, I was hooked at first bite.  Traditionally soba is served in a hot broth, or cold with a light dressing or dipping sauce.  I chose to take the cold route for the colorful winter salad.

Hearty greens and citrus are bountiful at our local farmers market this time of year, and while I tend to easily grow tired of what seems to be an eternity of kale,  this salad rejuvenates my love for all the great produce that winter has to offer.  I should also mention, although I hate to admit it, that this dish is 100% vegan.  It felt wrong just typing the word,  but I promise you that this recipe is so packed full of flavor that you'll forget all about that steak you wanted to eat for dinner tonight.

This winter soba salad is made of several components, all with different flavors and textures.  Roasted butternut squash adds sweetness to the tangy, pickled watermelon radish and umami flavor of the sautéed shiitake and yellow oyster mushrooms.  Throw in some baked tofu and kale for crunch, top it all off with a sweet and salty miso-grapefruit dressing, and your soba noodles were never in such good company.

Winter Soba Salad with Miso-Grapefruit Dressing

 

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups diced (roughly 1/2" cubes) squash
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, cubed (roughly 1/2" cubes)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 cup very thinly-sliced watermelon radish (regular radish will work if you can't find watermelon radish)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 
  • 3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups yellow oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3-3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 4 cups chopped Lacinato kale (also called "dinosaur" kale)
  • 6 ounces of soba noodles
  • 2 green onions, diced, for garnish
  • Black sesame seeds (optional), for garnish

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make the Dressing

In a small mixing bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients except the oil. Then, slowly whisk in the oil until combined.  Set aside to let the flavors meld until the salad is ready to be assembled.

Assemble the Salad

Preheat oven to 375. 

In a bowl, dissolve 1 1/2 cups of salt in hot water.  Place the tofu in the saltwater, and set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Discard the water, and pat the tofu dry with paper towels. 

In a small bowl combine the rice vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.  Stir until the salt has completely dissolved.  Place the sliced radish in the vinegar/salt mixture, and set aside until ready to assemble the salad. 

In a large bowl toss the tofu and squash in a small amount of olive oil (approximately 1-1 1/2 tablespoons), and arrange the pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the tofu and squash are brown and crispy on all sides.  Remove from heat and set aside until salad is ready to be assembled.

While the squash and tofu are cooking, sauté the mushrooms.  In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, and 

sauté for 5-6 minutes, until browned on all sides.  Next, add soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar and sherry, and cook mushrooms until the liquid is gone.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove from heat and set aside until salad is ready to be assembled. 

In large bowl season kale with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Massage the oil into the kale until all the leaves are evenly coated.  Next, drain the radish and discard the pickling liquid.  Set aside until the salad is ready to be assembled.  

Boil and drain the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package.

While the cooked ingredients are still warm, toss the noodles, tofu, squash, mushrooms, pickled radish, and kale in a large salad bowl.  Add the dressing to the salad mixture a little at a time, until everything is well coated.

Arrange the salad on a large serving plate, and garnish with the black sesame seeds and sliced green onion.

Nasturtium "Capers"

In the Bay Area, and many other parts of the country, the nasturtium plant is ubiquitous. It grows quickly and easily in our climate, and produces beautiful flowers for much of the year. It also happens that every part of the plant is edible. 

The flowers and leaves can be eaten raw (they have a nice peppery taste that goes will in salads), and they can also be stir-fried. For this recipe, however, I used the seed pods. Like the rest of the plant, they have a strong peppery taste, and when pickled, are pretty similar to capers. If you have a nasturtium plant growing on your property, you'll be able to make a pretty much unlimited supply of these things. They're great in salads, on sandwiches, or as a late addition to sauces that need a little extra bite. You can also eat them by themselves.

You want to pick the seed pods when they're still green and fresh. When they dry out, they become hard, bitter, and inedible. Generally, you want the ones that look like this:

If they've lost their green color, they're too old, and will taste awful. 

Anyway, on to actually making them.

Nasturtium Capers

  • 1 cup freshly-picked nasturtium seeds
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 large pinch dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 peppercorns
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon salt

Rinse and drain the nasturtium seeds to remove any dirt or bugs that might be clinging to them. Pour the seeds into a 1-pint jar, and cover them with a mixture of 1 cup boiling water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt. 

Let them cure in the saltwater, covered and at room temperature, for 3 days.

After 3 days, drain and rinse the seed pods again, discarding the saltwater, and wash the jar. Return the seeds to the jar.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot mixture over the nasturtium seeds. Cover the jar, and allow it to come down to room temperature. Refrigerate the capers for 3 days before using. Refrigerated, they'll keep for several months.

An Evening with Ina

Despite the fact that I need to get up at the crack of dawn to be at work to alleviate a potential art shipping emergency, there is something that I need to get off my chest.  I think Ina Garten is snooty.  There, I said it.  I know the world is in love with the Barefoot Contessa, and I've wanted to feel the same affection for her too, but I just can't foresee us being BFF's anytime soon.  

Tonight I attended a moderated interview between Ina Garten and the current CEO of Yahoo at Dominican University.  I accepted the gracious invitation from my future mother-in-law, ever so curious to see what the Barefoot Contessa was like off camera.  Turns out she is exactly as I imagined: pretentious, somewhat likable, and really has a love for cooking and entertaining.  I guess two out of three ain't bad.  I've seen her show a million times and have always liked her style of cooking, but have never felt a connection with her like I have other celebrity chefs.  Perhaps it's the way she mentions her husband Jeffrey every five seconds and prances around the Hamptons like she belongs on Gossip Girl.  Let's face it, I'm definitely more of an Anthony Bourdain or David Chang kind of gal.  

Honestly, I think that Ina has a really interesting story.  She was a former White House nuclear policy analyst who bravely decided to change careers and open up a specialty food store.  She has had no formal culinary training but is a New York Times best selling cookbook author and Food Network star.  I think it's great that she's able to do what she loves and gets paid to do it, but I so desperately wanted to be inspired by her story or have her share some words of wisdom.   Something to give me the courage to take that same leap of faith and follow my own dream, which is not that far off from the one she has realized for herself. 

Perhaps I was expecting too much.  I wanted a story and person that I could relate to, but Ina's answers were mostly shallow and left me wanting the real story.  When presented with the question "What has been your biggest failure?" she claimed that she has never really failed.  Maybe it was just her self acknowledged type A personality talking, but I found her answer to be pretentious and quite frankly, dishonest.  Everyone fails now and again, and it's these failures that help us to learn and grow.  We get it, you're highly successful, but even Kim Kardashian would have had a more honest answer for us.  

In the end I walked away with a signed copy of Ina Garten's new cookbook Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, and I hope to find more truth in her recipes than the facade she tried to fool us with.  

 

Sometimes, Things Don't Go Perfectly

I thought it might be interesting to write a post about one of our many failed attempts at making a dish that didn't go very well. It wasn't an unmitigated disaster, but it was definitely an object lesson in the importance of making sure that your abilities match your ambition.

I had bought some duck eggs from the farmer's market, and decided to use them to make pasta. After some discussion, Becky and I decided that a duck ravioli would be a good use of the richer-than-usual pasta that we were going to make. After doing a few searches for duck ravioli recipes, I felt that I had the gist of it, and decided to go for it, combining ingredients and techniques from a few different recipes into something that I could reasonably call my own.

The idea was to make some large ravioli with a filling of braised duck, along with trumpet mushrooms and a little bit of pork.

So far, so good

After searing the duck, I braised it for a few hours in chicken stock, a little bit of orange juice, and some fresh herbs.

After a few hours of braising, the duck was tender enough to easily separate from the bone. I set it aside to cool, along with the braising liquid, and in the same pan sauteed some trumpet mushrooms, onions, garlic, and little bit of ground pork.

The idea was to puree all of this stuff together in a food processor, turning it into a mixture that could be be manipulated in small quantities to use as a filling, and mixing in a duck egg to ensure that it all holds together.

Now doesn't that look appetizing?

That also worked reasonably well. And the pasta dough I made (from a pretty generic recipe I found online) also came together nicely. Things were looking pretty good at this point. We even had the artsy-fartsy photos ready to go.

So, what went wrong? A few things. First of all, we didn't have a pasta maker, and tried to roll out the first batch of dough by hand. It became very clear, very quickly, that this wasn't going to work. By the time this realization set in, it was getting late, so we decided to call it a night and start over the next day, which we figured wouldn't be too hard since the filling and pasta dough were already made.

The next day, we bought a pasta maker, and rolled out the dough properly.

Things didn't exactly go perfectly from there. I overworked the dough, so it turned out tough. The ravioli were too big, with too much dough for the amount of filling.

After cooking the ravioli, and sauteeing them in a little bit of butter, garlic, and sage, they tasted decent enough, though a few of them broke open while cooking, and ended up full of water.

Would I try making ravioli again? Of course, and there will probably be a real recipe for it on this blog sooner or later. 

When it comes to cooking, or anything you're passionate about, you can't be afraid to fail. In fact, letting a fear of failure dictate your actions pretty much guarantees failure. Just go in knowing that not everything will work, and chalk up the failures as a learning experience. 

Summer Panzanella Salad

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Growing up in the midwest, summer was filled with hot sun, Cubs baseball, and my Grandmother's homegrown tomatoes.  She had a small garden in her backyard where tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers would grow plentifully every year.  The tomatoes were so sweet you could eat them like apples.  

This Summer panzanella salad takes me right back to that place.  It is fresh, bright, and packed full of all the wonderful flavors Summer has to offer.  My little spin on this classic bread salad is the addition of a basil and chive pesto.  The pesto brings an herby punch to the sweet tomatoes, smoky zucchini, and tangy vinaigrette.  The key to making this recipe is using the freshest ingredients you can find.  I really can't stress this enough. Take advantage of your local farmers market or your own backyard garden, because Summer will be gone just as quickly as it came, and it's just too sweet to let pass by. 

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Summer Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

1 1/2-2 lbs zucchini

1 1/2-2 lbs tomatoes

1 large sour baguette

parmesan cheese

2 cups chives, loosely packed

2 cups basil, loosely packed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 2/3 cups olive oil

1/2 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

salt

pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.  Cut baguette into 1" cubes and spread evenly onto a baking sheet.  Toast bread cubes in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the bread is slightly dried out and crunchy on the outside.  This step is very important.  If the bread is too soft it will become soggy once tossed in the dressing.  

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While the bread is toasting, prepare the basil and chive pesto.  Puree basil, chives, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of olive oil in a food processor until a smooth paste forms.  Season to taste with salt, about 1-2 good pinches.  This yields about 1 cup of pesto.

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Next, make the dressing by combining the shallot, garlic, dijon mustard and vinegar in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and then slowly drizzle in 1 cup of olive oil, whisking vigorously, until the dressing emulsifies.  Set aside and let the flavors meld, about a half hour or so.  This yields approximately 1 1/2 cups of vinaigrette.  

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Once the pesto and dressing is made, prep the veggies.  Cut the tomatoes into small wedges and slice the zucchini on a diagonal into 1/4" slices.  In a large bowl lightly coat zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss until all of the zucchini is coated evenly.  Heat up a grill pan on high until almost smoking.  Cook zucchini for 2-3 minutes per side, or until nice brown grill marks are made.

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In a large bowl combine bread cubes, tomatoes, and grilled zucchini.  Toss with about 1/2 cup of vinaigrette until everything is well coated.  Place salad onto a large, flat serving tray.  Drizzle on some of the pesto and garnish with parmesan shavings. 

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

It's almost summer, and with the weather warming up, I can think of few things better suited to beating the heat than mint ice cream. 

Unlike most recipes, this one uses fresh mint leaves, rather than mint extract and food coloring. As a result, it lacks the unnatural alien-green color and cloying sweetness that you might normally associate with mint ice cream. Unlike some of the other ice cream recipes I've posted here, this one doesn't use eggs. While the use of eggs can give you an incredibly rich and decadent ice cream, I think the lighter consistency you get from this egg-free recipe is better suited to the mint flavor, and the fact that you're probably going to be eating this on a hot summer day. To that end, this recipe also uses a higher ratio of half & half to cream than usual (most recipes I've found, and made, use a 1:1 ratio, or something close to it). 

Note that when I describe this ice cream as "light," I'm referring to the flavor, texture, and mouthfeel. You won't be mistaking this for diet food, I assure you.

And if you have yor own mint plant, you're probably aware that it tends to grow faster than you can harvest it, so any additional use for the leaves is always welcome.

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

  • 1 quart half & half
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves, packed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Combine the cream, half & half, and mint leaves in a blender. Puree until no large pieces of mint remain. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan, and add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Over medium-low heat, stir the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved, and the liquid is hot, but not quite boiling.

Remove the ice cream mix from the heat, and allow it to come down to room temperature. Pour the mix into an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight. 

When you're ready to freeze the ice cream, strain the mixture to remove any large chunks of mint leaf, and any bits of cream that might have clotted. 

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place the finished ice cream in an airtight container, and keep in the freezer for at least 2 hours, until it's firm.

Pork Chile Verde

It's Cinco de Drinko!, Drinko de Mayo!, or whatever you like to call the 5th of May.  I'm not quite certain what this holiday even celebrates.  All I know is that it's a great excuse to make some margaritas and guacamole, sit outside and enjoy this amazing weather we're having here in San Francisco.  

John and I are a bit sporadic about celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but this year we decided it might be fun to go all out and make one of his favorite childhood dishes, pork chile verde.  We pretty much winged the recipe going off of very vague instructions from his Dad, relying on our instincts and countless trips to the taqueria to get the right flavor profiles.  The results were much better than we could have expected.  

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The salsa verde is bright and tangy, packed full of garlic with just the right amount of heat from a jalapeno.  We used pork shoulder for this recipe, which is a great cut of meat for stewing or braising.  It has a lot of marbling which keeps the meat from drying out while it's simmering in all that salsa verde goodness.  This recipe makes quite a bit, so make sure to invite all your friends over for a Mexican fiesta!  Oh yeah, and it also makes a great midnight snack, good for soaking up that bottle of tequila you polished off earlier.

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Pork Chile Verde

Ingredients:

6 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2-3 tablespoons canola oil

1 yellow onion

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

20 tomatillos, approximately 2 1/2 lbs.

6 cloves garlic

1 shallot

1 bunch cilantro

1 jalapeno, seeded

juice of 2 limes

In a large bowl coat cubed pork shoulder with 1 tablespoon each of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours.  While the pork is marinating make the salsa verde.

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Peel and wash tomatillos to remove the sticky substance that is left on the surface after peeling.  Cut into quarters and put into a large blender.  The blender should be large enough to hold over 6 cups of liquid.  If you don't have a blender that large, make this in two batches.  Puree tomatillos.  Then add in garlic, shallot, 1/2 tablespoon salt, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice.  Puree until there are no large chunks remaining.  This will make a ton of salsa verde, approximately 6 cups.  You will only need about 3 cups of the salsa to braise the pork, so you can serve the rest with tortilla chips or save in the fridge until you make your next batch of pork chile verde.  

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Once the pork is done marinating, remove from the refrigerator and let come up to room temperature.  Coat the bottom of a large soup pot with canola oil.  Heat the oil on medium high heat and sear the pork in batches until the meat is lightly browned but not cooked all the way through.  Once all the pork has been seared, sautee a chopped onion in the remaining pork fat until translucent.  Deglaze the pot with the chicken stock, scraping up all the good brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Put all of the pork back into the pot and cover the pork with 3 cups of the salsa verde.  Cover and simmer on medium low to low heat for at least 3 hours until fork tender.  Serve on warm tortillas with a little bit of the remaining salsa verde, cotija cheese, guacamole, and fresh radish.

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This Is Technically Food

There was a time when I’d come home from work, and there was only one thing I wanted to taste: the cold steel of a gun barrel. But don't worry! Now that I’ve discovered this recipe, there are two things!

If, like me, you think that trivialities such as dignity and self-respect are dispensable, this dish (Technically Food) is for you. Technically Food is truly a medley of flavors – the salty crunch of Fritos™ corn chips, the fresh-out-of-the-can chili and baked beans, the finest in boxed macaroni and cheese – they all come together to create something that, for better or for worse, words cannot describe.

The key to this dish is to start with only the finest ingredients. The macaroni and cheese layer is made with Safeway™ brand macaroni and cheese. I’ve used the instant microwave variety before, but here at Pickled Rose, we like to put our best foot forward. If you decide to recreate this dish, you could cut corners, but by the time you’ve actually committed yourself to making it, won’t you have already fallen far enough?

Technically Food

Ingredients

1 bag of Fritos Original corn ships

Sadness

1 can of bean-free chili

Self-loathing

1 can of pork and beans

1 bag of fancy shredded cheese blend

A six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a bottle of King Cobra, or anything else that will help you convince yourself that what you’re about to do is a good idea.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to whatever. Seriously, do you think the temperature matters? I think we both know that if you’re actually making this thing, nothing has mattered in a long, long time.

Spread a layer of corn chips about half an inch thick over the bottom of a casserole dish (preferably a clear one, so that you can gaze upon the beautiful intricacy of the layers).

Abandon all hope.

Cover the chips with a layer of shredded cheese, followed by the chili.

Don't ask, man. I don't even know.

Prepare the macaroni and cheese. The instructions can be found on the box. Or any episode of Sandra Lee’s show.

Spread a layer of macaroni and cheese over the chili. Spread the pork and beans over the macaroni. Finally, top it off with another layer of shredded cheese, and some crushed Fritos.

Yep, that sure is a color that has occured anywhere in nature, ever!

 Cook it in the oven until everything is melted and heated through.

Take it out of the oven, and "enjoy"…preferably off of a paper plate while standing over the sink.

On another note, I just noticed that todayis April 1st, and that the one-year anniversary of the founding of Pickled Rose passed over a month ago, and we didn't even notice. Sorry about that, I guess. Rest assured, however, that we have every intention of sticking around for another year. Maybe instead of marking the anniversary of the founding of this blog, we'll start marking the anniversary of the debut of this amazing meal. Just FYI, that will be APRIL FIRST, 2013. Mark your calendar. 

Roasted Mediterranean Chickpeas

Chickpeas!!!  SERIOUSLY, chickpeas!  You may know them as garbanzo beans, disguised as hummus, or the lonely, untouched container at your local salad bar.  I am here to start a revolution for these, creamy, delicious, and underrated legume.  

My favorite way to eat them is roasted.  Let's face it, roasting makes everything taste better, and chickpeas are no exception to the rule.  This dish is adapted from a recipe I found on The Kitchn earlier this week, and it makes a great healthy snack.  The chickpeas are crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside coated in a mediterranean spice blend of sumac, oregano, cumin, garlic, mint, and lemon.  They are a great alternative to popcorn, and much more satisfying and flavorful at that.  Try swapping out your bag of microwave popcorn for a bowl full of these roasted chickpeas the next time you rent a movie.  

And trust me, make a double batch of this recipe because they will be eaten up as soon as you set them out on the table.  Viva la chickpea revolution!  

Ingredients: 

2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping tablespoon fresh mint, minced

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Drain and rinse chickpeas.  Make sure to rinse them very well, until all of the protein bubbles stop forming.  Next, dry the chickpeas really well on paper towels and then place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Cook the chickpeas for 20 minutes stirring them halfway through their cook time.  

While the chickpeas are roasting mix together the remaining ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and combine the spices and oil into they form a slurry.  After the chickpeas have cooked for 20 minutes place the chickpeas into the spice and olive oil slurry and gently fold them in until they are thoroughly coated.  Put the chickpeas back onto the cookie sheet and cook for another 4-5 minutes until golden brown.  Make sure to let the chickpeas cool for a few minutes before serving, as the peas will crisp up as they cool.  These are best served warm.

Sorry About The Downtime

No, our site didn't crash because of overwhelming traffic (Ha! That was a good one, John. Thanks, Other John). I stupidly let our domain name registration expire.

So, if our site was briefly replaced with giraffe porn during the last week (and you could actually tell the difference), things are back to normal. For some of you, that may come as a disappointment.

I guess you'll have to get your jollies elsewhere.

 

'Sup?