Saturday, June 4, 2016

Snips & Snaps

Things that have interested me recently, but that I'm entirely too lazy to write about (at any length), are:

1. Foraging for wild bamboo shoots. Complicated, but interesting. Even Jean-Georges Vongerichten thinks so. I was just playing around with the bamboo shoot in the photo (don't you ever accuse me of being a food stylist!): The white filling is goat cheese and the little topper-jobs are chive blossoms (from my garden) that I pickled.

2. Steaming eggs to hard-boil them . . . it makes them incredibly easy to peel. You can also really nicely control the "doneness" of the yolk. Thanks to Maria Rodale whose book, Scratch (Rodale, October 2016) turned me on to this. (Though to be fair, she learned it from a chef in Pennsylvania named Allan Schanbacher. You'll have to ask him where he learned it. And then let me know what he says.)

3. Making an easy-peasy ratatouille by roasting whole (untrimmed) eggplant, zucchini, and plum tomatoes (and sometimes some sliced onions) and then slicing everything up after. Just add olive oil, herbs, S&P, and maybe a dash of balsamic. Done.

4. Black limes. They are an ingredient in Persian (OK, Iranian) cooking and are called—among other transliterated words—loomi. I've never seen a whole lime, but I bought a bottle of powdered limes. The powder has a nice sort of citrusy tang and a very faint underflavor of something else....almost like fenugreek, or some other sort of haunting spice. I mix black lime powder with sea salt for sprinkling on things. I thought that I had stumbled on a fantastic salt substitute until I found out that "black limes" are first cooked in a salt solution (sheesh) before being dried in the sun until they turn black. The bottle I bought is labeled Black Lemon Powder, even though the ingredient list says black limes (oh, those wacky Middle Easterners).

5. Dried mango powder. Called amchoor/amchur (more transliteration here). Liking this too, for the same reason as the black limes. Faintly tart and sort of like putting salt on food, but not.

6. And then, in a complete 180°, I've been obsessed with making flavored salt. (It was weird last Xmas, 2015. I gave people flavored salt and they gave me flavored salt. Everybody gave everybody flavored salt. What up?) Anyway, I just experimented with mixing kosher salt with various liquids: some simple (lemon juice) and some more complex (red wine and balsamic with herbs steeped in it). I spread the resulting paste out on a baking sheet to dry and then I crumbled it back into sprinkle-able salt. It's fun. You can get cool colors. Don't bother with the lemon juice, it just tastes like salt on steroids.

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