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Archive for the ‘Paradise Valley Produce’ Category


From top, clockwise: miso-pickled turnip greens, broiled salmon skin, stewed pumpkin, kinpira, Hakurei turnip pickles

As my last few posts attest, I’ve been on a bit of a Japanese food bender these days. Around New Year’s, I start to feel a little homesick for my parents’ cooking and start making things that I used to wish would disappear or turn into pizza when I was a kid. I started to have a hankering for the kind of foods my mom will often cook in big batches on Sunday to have for breakfast through the week, and the results were quite satisfactory.
Here are a couple of recipes:

Kinpira:
This dish is usually made either with burdock root or carrots (not both), but I like the combination of the two together plus a handful of hijiki seaweed.

1/2 lb burdock root
1/2 lb carrots
1/2 cup dried hijiki seaweed
sesame oil
soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup

Peel and slice burdock into matchsticks (about 3 inches long and 1/2 cm wide) and set in a bowl of cold water + 1 tblsp vinegar. This is to keep the burdock from discoloring. Peel and slice carrots in the same way. Submerge hijiki in cold water; drain when softened and about quadrupled in size.

Heat one tbsp of sesame oil in a frying pan. Add chopped burdock root and carrots, plus about 2 tbsp of soy sauce (or less, if you like your food less salty). Stir-fry about 3 minutes, then sprinkle brown sugar/molasses/maple syrup over the vegetables and add the drained hijiki. Stir-fry another 10 minutes. Done!

Stewed pumpkin:
For this batch, I used a small Jarrahdale pumpkin I got from Paradise Valley Produce the last time I visited. The standard squash to use is some sort of kabocha, which is sweeter and starchier than the Jarrahdale, which is somewhat bland but has a moister, more yam-like texture.

1 3lb winter squash or pumpkin (not a Sugar Pie or Cinderella, as these will not hold up in the stewing pot)
2 cups dashi or fish stock
1/4 c soy sauce
1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly crosswise
brown sugar/molasses/maple syrup to taste
3 tbsp sake

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and veins, then slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch crescents lengthwise. Heat dashi together with the ginger slices until it reaches a slow boil. Mix in the soy sauce, sweetener (I say “to taste” b/c the sweetness of this dish can vary very widely) and the sake. Then, add the squash slices and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer about 40 minutes, or until the squash is soft all the way through.

Note: I’m a little alarmed to find that health warnings have been issued in a number of countries (the U.K., New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong) advising people to avoid consumption of hijiki due to high arsenic levels. Not quite sure what to make of it – I’ve been eating it all my life and I’m not dead yet; on the other hand, the same could be said of a lot of things that aren’t healthy. Decide for yourself. Kinpira is just as good without it and I certainly don’t want to be accused to poisoning anyone with Japanese food!

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I love finding unusual vegetables and thinking of ways to cook them.

A jaunt up to the farm just before Christmas yielded a huge bounty of wild radish greens, which is both of one my favorite vegetables and also something I’ve never seen in a store or a farmers market, most likely because it’s a weed. It sprouts like crazy throughout the year, especially as it gets colder. If you have a garden, or have strolled through an area farm, you’ve probably seen it – it grows to about 3 feet and has little pinwheel flowers that are generally either yellow, white or lavender.

The plant looks very much like a taller, spindlier version of broccoli raab, which it also closely resembles in taste. It quickly grows tough and fibrous, so it has to be harvested when the tips are still young and tender, ideally before the flower opens and the inflorescence is just emerging from the stalk. I felt very lucky indeed to coincidentally be on the farm when this prolific weed was just entering the phase when it’s ideal for picking.

There are a couple of ways to cook it. It’s got a one-two punch of brazen mustardy bite plus an undertone of bitterness, which I think gives it character, but which could be off-putting to people who prefer their vegetables to be more demure. So a good way to temper it is to make tempura with it – this brings out the tender snap of the stalk, crisps the leaves and mellows the bitterness.

Another method is to stir-fry at high heat with a prodigious amount of toasted sesame oil, a dash of maple syrup or brown sugar, and about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce per pound.

A more traditional way to cook it is to use it in oshitashi – some recipes call for things like mirin, sake or sesame of some sort, but I like to just splash some soy sauce on it with a handful of katsuo flakes and call it ready. This is the plainest preparation of the green, one which doesn’t mask the bitter spiciness of the vegetable, and one that goes especially well with a nice rich fish accompaniment like the one below.

I was also delighted to come across some Scarlet Queen turnips at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market at the Eatwell Farms stand. I think it’s a shame that turnips are generally either neglected or reviled in American food because they require so little preparation to bring out their juicy sweetness. They’re best when they’re on the smaller side (i.e., not too much larger than golf-ball sized), as fresh as possible and not too mature. Sometimes you get turnips that have been sitting around in the ground for too long, and the mellow tenderness that make them so delicious has dissipated into a searing, nose-clearing mustardy taste.

My father used to have a batch of turnip pickles going whenever they were in season, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to replicate that out here. These turnips were especially nice because their festive reddish-pink blush added a bit of cheer to what’s otherwise a relatively drab-looking vegetable. I cut them into thin, half-moon slivers and layered them in a glass dish with a bit of yuzu peel, salt and kombu. Then I put some plastic wrap over them, weighted them down with a jug of water and waited an hour. I also pickled the greens in a similar fashion, but replaced the salt with light miso and added a tsp each of sake and mirin. Add some rice, miso soup and a protein of some sort and you’ve got a meal!


Clockwise, from top: hijiki brown rice, wild radish green oshitashi, pickled turnips w/ sesame oil, miso-pickled turnip greens, miso soup, sauteed wild radish greens, fried sand

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Delicatas are probably my favorite kind of winter squash. They have the perfect texture, aren’t too moist or too dry and have a deliriously sweet taste that goes well with all things winter. The standard way of cooking them is to simply cut them in half, brush them with olive oil and then bake them until soft – at which point you can gobble the whole thing down, skin and all.

But that would be so easy. It wouldn’t require hours of baking, boiling, pureeing, fussing and mess-making in the kitchen. So I decided to try making delicata gnocchi. Now, I love gnocchi, but I absolutely hate it when they’re too heavy and you feel like you have a leaden torpedo of dough in your stomach from eating them. Here’s what went into the dough:

The meat from 4 roasted, seeded delicata squash and 3 baked russet potatoes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs

Instead of adding flour to the dough until it became manageable enough to roll out and cut into pieces, I just left it as it was and used a spoon and a pastry spatula to spoon the dough up, divide it and drop it straight into boiling water. This I served with fennel sauce:

3 fennel bulbs, browned in a covered pan with 2 tbsp olive oil
blended with
1 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

I reserved some fronds off the fennel to mince and toss on top for an extra anise-y kick. As you can see, it wasn’t the most elegant meal, but it was damn tasty.

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It’s winter squash season!!!! There are SO MANY delicious kinds of winter squash and so many ways to cook them that it’s almost overwhelming. Almost enough, even, to not rue the fact that if you live anywhere other than California, that’s pretty much all you’re going to get at the farmer’s market until next May.

Heat, Bill Buford’s book about his Italian cooking journey from Babbo in New York to the Tuscan countryside, filled my head with delusions of hand-rolled pasta and thoughts of a plate of pumpkin ravioli with radicchio sauce I had in Florence over 10 years ago. Which is an insane and thoroughly unrealistic standard to set. I mean, I’m Asian. I’m not some fleshsome Italian grandma who’s been pressing pasta w/ her orecchiete thumb since birth.

But I’d shlepped 4 orange kabochas down from the farm and I figured I’d give ravioli a shot. Now, in Heat, there is a brief mention of some recipe for ravioli di zucca in which the squash is grated and then stewed in milk. This is intriguing because it seems gratuitously fiddly. Winter squash is great because all you have to do is cut it in half, brush it with oil and throw it in the oven. And you can even skip the oil part if you’re feeling really lazy. So why on earth would you make the process so painstaking?

Needless to say, I just couldn’t bring myself to muscle down in front of the grater for hours and shred my own fingers into the ravioli filling. Instead, I halved each squash, removed the seeds and then baked them semi-submerged in milk at 350 – just because I had some sitting around in the fridge and thought, what the hell. Once the squash was baked through (about 45 mins), I scooped the innards out, added 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan, a dash of salt and nutmeg and mixed it all together.

I rolled my pasta out, cut it into 2×2 squares and put about half a tablespoon of filling in. Then, while the ravioli were cooking, I minced some leeks, shredded up some chard and sauteed the lot in butter.

Tada! Ravioli. Not pretty, not perfect and definitely not the way the Tuscan mountain people make it, but not too shabby. Even if I did cheat and add what is probably a sacrilegious amount of olive oil into the dough so it would behave.

Can’t wait to use the leftover filling in a sauce…

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