Momofuku cookbook – fresh oysters and pickled Asian pears

Gong hay fat choy! Happy Chinese New Year! And happy Valentine’s Day to you as well! I’ve got a special treat for you today as a present from me to you, with help from Valerie and Beavie over at A Canadian Foodie. When Valerie found out that I got a copy of the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan for Christmas, she had a great idea for us to pick out recipes and do them at the same time in order to compare our experiences.

Momofuku cookbook

Momofuku cookbook

A quick flip through the cookbook told me one thing – David Chang doesn’t do simple recipes. At first glance they may seem simple but this initial impression is deceptive as most of his main recipes comprise of 2+ recipes combined together. Some of them can take days.

I had first choice, and I wanted to start with something simple, so I picked fresh oysters with a pickled Asian pear and black pepper mignonette.

The book has a fairly detailed section on how to choose, clean and open fresh oysters (pages 131-133). I was already familiar with most of these rules, but I thought one rule was a great reminder for myself: smell the oyster before you serve it and see if it smells clean and fresh and sweet – of the sea but not fishy.

I chose some lovely (but small) Malpeque oysters from Prince Edward Island. I gave them a good scrub under cold water, and kept them in the fridge until I was ready to shuck them.

Freshly scrubbed oysters

Freshly scrubbed oysters

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Gallo pinto and Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

A friend went to Peru and Costa Rica, and asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. I’m sure she was expecting me to ask for a sweater or something like that, but I think I surprised her. Food, I replied. Something unique. Maybe a sample of the tea you’re supposed to take when you’re climbing Machu Picchu?

What she ended up bringing back was some Lizano salsa, (Lizano sauce). The taste of Lizano is a little hard to explain. A sauce made out of vegetables and salt, it tastes a little like a slightly sweet and spiced V8-flavoured sauce, minus the tomatoes.

Stick it on tacos, she said, when I asked what it was normally used it for. That seemed kind of a waste though. and then I found a recipe for a Costa Rican gallo pinto – beans and rice.

Now you can apparently substitute Lizano sauce with Worcestershire sauce, but they just do not taste the same. I tried called a couple of places to see if i could find it here in Edmonton, but with no luck so far. Paraiso Tropical said they have carry the same kind of sauce but from a different brand. The person who answered the phone at El Rancho Latin Market told me they didn’t speak English and hung up on me. Anyone know if I can find this stuff here in town? If the other brand doesn’t taste right I’m going to have to resort to ordering the sauce online.

gallo pinto

gallo pinto

Gallo pinto
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow, white or red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked rice (you get better results with day old or defrosted frozen rice than freshly cooked rice)
1 cup of canned black beans, with some liquid
5 tablespoons Lizano salsa or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
Pour the oil into a large skillet or wok set on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the red pepper and cook until the red pepper is soft. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add the can of beans to the pan, but only add a little of the liquid in the can (reserve the rest of the liquid just in case). Add the Lizano or Worcestershire sauce, stir and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. If the pan starts to dry out, add more of the reserved bean liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice, and stir until well coated, and cook until the rice is heated through. Top with chopped cilantro, and add additional salt, pepper, or Lizano sauce if necessary.

Update: I found some Lizano, but it was in Vancouver. So I had someone bring me lots of bottles. 🙂

2nd Update: I keep getting internet stores advertising in my comments, so I am closing comments on this post. Google it if you want to order Lizano online.

Dill pickle chicken salad

I made a chicken salad with leftover roasted chicken, but it felt too ordinary so I jazzed it up with dill pickles. Lots of dill pickles.

dill pickle chicken salad

dill pickle chicken salad

Dill pickle chicken salad
All measurements are approximate; adjust to your personal preference.

1 ½ cups shredded roasted chicken
1 rib of celery, diced
1 shallot, diced
4-5 tbsp mayonnaise or low-fat whipped dressing
4-5 tbsp diced dill pickles
salt and pepper to taste

Mix and eat by itself or on a sandwich with toasted bread and some sort of green leaf/butter/whatever lettuce leaves.

Fried fennel

I bought some fennel with the intent of making a fennel and blood orange salad, but decided to try something new instead. This dish is a bit like eating fried onions, but with a mild anise flavour.

fried fennel

fried fennel

Fried fennel
Adapted from a recipe by French Food at Home with Laura Calder

Ingredients
A fennel bulb
salt and pepper
At least 2 tbsp of olive oil

Directions
Clean and trim the fennel bulb. Cut into slices approximately 1/2 centimetre thick. If you slice the fennel horizontally starting at the tip or the end, the pieces will separate a bit like onion rings. If you cut it length-wise they will hold together more like oval slices.

Season the sliced fennel with salt and pepper. Heat your olive oil in a pan and fry both sides of each fennel piece until the fennel is tender and starts to caramelize. They take longer to cook than onions, so be patient.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Everyone I’ve ever told about this recipe have raved about its taste. It’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, only uses one pot and it tastes damn good. I discovered it one day when watching Good Deal with Dave Lieberman on TV.

“Wow, that looks simple and delicious,” I thought. And so I immediately went looking for the recipe on the US Food Network website. I’ve made it enough times now that I’ve adjusted some ingredients to fit my own personal taste.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup
Adapted from Good Deal with Dave Lieberman
Makes approximately 4-6 large servings.

Ingredients
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, roughly diced
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (original recipe asks for just 1 tsp but I like the additional cinnamon taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want heat)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes (796 mL/28 oz, original recipe used half of this amount though)
2 cans chickpeas (540 mL/19 oz per can), rinsed and drained
1 carton (900 mL) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth… or use your own stock of course)
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-washed baby spinach

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent (lower the heat if browning starts to occur). Add all your spices spices and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and approximately 10 grinds of fresh pepper.

Don’t forget to stir as you add each ingredient. The chickpeas should be just covered with liquid; if you don’t have enough liquid add some water.

Bring the soup to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Basically, you want the chickpeas to soften enough so that there is no bite.

Remove the soup from the heat and use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas (but not all of them) right there in the pot. Spoon out your soup and add plenty of spinach to each bowl, stirring until the heat just starts to wilt the leaves. If you’re serving the entire pot, go ahead and add your spinach to the pot instead of into individual bowls. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve the soup lightly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

On buying a pepper mill

Last year started building up my kitchen gadget collection. No longer satisfied with using cheap knives and minimal appliances, I wanted to pick and choose some of the better quality items that would help me to make all those recipes that I had been reading about.

My first gadget was a pepper mill. I love the taste of freshly ground black pepper. It’s just so much more flavourful than the pre-ground stuff. I had been getting by with what was basically a table top-sized pepper grinder, meant for use at the dining table. It had been a part of a set that came with my cheapie set of pots and pans. But when I used the pepper grinder for cooking, it took me forever to grind out the correct amount of pepper. I needed something better, faster, and easier to use.

My first try was one of those electronic pepper mills that disperses ground pepper with the touch of a button. It worked well in the store, and I thought it would save my wrist from becoming sore. Too bad it jammed and stopped working within days. I took it apart and still couldn’t manage to get it fixed properly. I finally returned it in frustration, and hopped on the web to see what people said were some of the better pepper mills.

Peugeot Pepper MillI ended up spending way too much money. More money than I ever thought I would ever spend on pepper. But I’ve had the mill for about a year now, and it still works wonderfully. I love that thing! And from what my research said, this grinder will go on and on for years. That’s worth the cost, in my opinion.

And the one I ended up getting? It’s the one pictured here, from Peugeot, the car maker. They apparently started out making things like pepper mills, and haven’t stopped. I’ll probably never own a Peugeot car, but I have a feeling I’ll be loyal to this pepper mill for a long time.