Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
During a recent family reunion in Florida of all places, I had a chance to have an opportunity that reinforced my understanding that so much of my Indian food experiences are stereotypical at best. I also had one of my favorite cooking opportunities of the year. Because, as the ironic case may be, my second cousins are, in fact, Indian. And so, as I looked on, my cousins created a feast, Punjabi Jain style. (All the lovely photographs here are by my uncle, Brian Richards. He also creates gorgeous panoramic photos. You can view his photographs here.)
Sanjay and Winnie cook together each Sunday. And their nephew Akshay had joined us from Chicago, trained in his mother’s own style of cooking. Thus, to watch them all cook together was to watch a comical and occasional clash of food training. For example, Aksahy insisted on using one technique for creating the bread dough while Winnie jumped in with another version. (In the meantime they tried their best, and failed, to teach me the proper mixing, rolling and folding methods necessary to create the roti-style breads!) All I know is that the final meal was fabulous.
Akshay explained that the resulting bread was a cross between between pronti and fulka (also known as phulka or pulka). These were made simply with whole wheat flour and water. The truth is that I have only known chapatti and paratha. I loved how easily these came together and how healthy they are. I also adored watching Akshay and Winnie try to find a compromise on exactly how they should be cooked. My younger cousins Natasha and Keitan also made sure I knew just how to use the bread to scoop up my meal instead of using a fork.
One of my favorite dishes was Sanjay’s okra. This is one of those dishes that would dispel any idea of okra being a slimey vegetable. He began by heating a non-stick skillet on high heat. Then he seared the okra until it was dry and almost burnt. He addedred chilies, coriander, garam masala, onions and scallions. Finally, off the heat he topped it with a wonderful spice: anardana powder, otherwise known as powdered pomegranate seeds! It added a spicy-sour taste to the vegetable.
His mushrooms were just as wonderful. This time he began by heating sautéing chopped red onions. He added chana masala (a spice mixture). Then he added sliced mushrooms and sautéed them til they were just seared. He added more onions until they cooked down. And, as a final touch, a few more red onions, barely cooked to retain their bite.
His potatoes would put any hash browns to shame. Somehow, despite the limited kitchenware in our rental house he managed to cook the cubed potatoes until they were deliciously crisp and crunchy on the outside, but soft inside. Again, they were sautéed with the chana masala giving them an aromatic taste and smell.
Sajay used a tomato base for two dishes. He pureed tomato paste, fresh tomatoes, red onions and chilis in the blender. He cooked the sauce down and put chick peas in half, creating of my other favorite dish: chole.
Winnie made homemade paneer or cheese by heating up 2% milk just until it was boiling. She slowly poured in lemon juice until it curdled and then drained it in cheesecloth until it was firm. Cubed and placed in the same tomato base it was unrecognizable, but just as delicious as the chana fraternal twin. The only difference-Sanjay added whole milk to create a creamy sauce.
Finally, basmati rice, rinsed and cooked with tumeric and two cloves to give it a sublte glowing color and scent. More importantly, Akshay and Winnie finally taught me how to properly say the name of this aromatic rice: bas’ma-thi.
It is a rare treat to be able to eat truly homecooked, regional food. It is far more special when you get to eat it with family you see too infrequently. So I thank my cousins for bringing us all around the table, to break roti together.
Friday, May 13, 2011
The atmosphere was casual and relaxed and our waitress was warm and friendly. The menu (offered up on a white board), offers more sandwiches at lunch and full dishes, such as prime rib at dinner.
Little Bar Restaurant, Goodland, Florida, 239-394-5663
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
For me there is such pleasure in giving over to the whims of a good chef. And we were happy from our first amuse-bouche: white beans with herbs, confit veal tongue and light-as-air gougeres made with gruyere. And I enjoyed my "Vaccaro", a perfectly tart mix of Ethereal Gin, Aperol and Cocchi Americano. We ate this with homemade rye breads, one sourdough and the other with caraway. One of our favorite dishes of the night was the silky fois gras terrine served as part of our charcuterie platter. Next, we enjoyed the earthy liverwurst and the rougher, but just as tender squab pate. Finally, the miso pork rillettes, perfect for spreading on bread and eating with a German walnut-mint mustard.
Our first "official course" reflected what I loved most about Journeyman. It was a warm salad, that both inspired by sense of salad and how to cook. Instead of a standard plate of greens, they offered perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables artistically arranged on a plate. We enjoyed golden yellow beets, pickled watermelon radish, fresh fava beans, tender Thumbalina carrots, pea tendrils, potato puree and a warm wheat pilaf. On top, deep-fried quinoa replaced croutons. They were graced with herbs, cut right from the garden that lay against the window boxes directly in the main dining area.
Next, another treat that, I can promise tasted far better than it sounds: a roasted carrot soup with a nicoise olive and chocolate ganache. Fried snow peas and more pea tendrils draped on top. I am not a fan of cooked carrots, but one spoonful of the carrot soup eaten with the olive-chocolate mixture was just this side of dessert. It was fruity, delicate, deep.
On the meat side, a dish that was just as good: a Pig's Head torchon with panko on a sauce gribiche and a raspberry-rhubarb mostarda. I dove, though, right into the tender morel. I could have eaten those alone all night.
We then enjoyed braised artichokes that were lightened by a vinegar reduction. Again, I fell for the maiitake mushrooms that were on the side, though the polenta was perfectly cooked. I never quite "got" the addition of the parmesean coated popcorn, though it was tasty.
The meat course this time: a duck confit that made my dining companions swoon. We were more ambivalent about the Parisian gnocchi which weren't quite light enough to merit our admiration.
Our mains were the weaker part of the night, though still then, each dish had an asset. I enjoyed the homemade canelloni which were brightened by the addition of lemon zest to the fresh ricotta filling. While I could have skipped the pea tendrils, I loved the spring composite of salsify, peas, favas, celeriac and kholrabi.
The meat dish consisted of a large chunk of smoked pork shoulder that was too dry, too heavy. It missed, in many ways, the joys of the other dishes. However, the fresh corn pudding that decorated the side was sweet and creamy.
We were easily turned again by the whole concept of a "Pre-Dessert." This time it consisted of a sliver of goat cheese cheesecake topped with a sweet and creamy fresh corn sorbet.
Our main dessert took the best of the season, rhubarb and transformed it four ways. I adore rhubarb but stick to compote. Here, it was served macerated in raspberry juice and elderflower, highlighting the vegetal taste of the fruit. The beignet (I had idealized visions of it being warm) was tender and filled with rhubarb jam. What I loved most was the delicate and tart rhubarb-hibiscus sorbet . The rooibos-panna cotta was elegant in look and taste-a chai like cream topped with rosy rhubarb syrup.
But the meal wasn't over. Journeyman treated us to 3 last bites: a chocolate biscuit, a rose hip topped butter cookie and an airy and heavenly homemade Campari marshmallow. As the meal ended, we talked about the pleasure of Journeyman. The staff was excellent. Meg, in particular took the time to patiently explain each dish and to make sure we were content. The intimate restaurant was calm enough to allow us to have conversation and hear one another without yelling over background noise. And each dish surprised and delighted us in different ways. No, Journeyman may not be for everyone. But we will be back. I know that another evening, another season will bring another round of wonderful food in a warm atmosphere.
Journeyman, 9 Sanborn Court, Somerville, 617-718-2333