Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low of Rasa Malaysia

A craving for pork buns can be all consuming.  A good pork bun is salty, sweet, crispy, fatty and moist all together.  But there are just so many weekends that I actually have time to get fresh steam buns in Chinatown or at Myers and Chang.  Which means I need to cook them at home. Last summer, I tried Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's recipe from Mastering the Art of Chinese cooking.  The barbecued pork alone was fantastic but the recipe required "red wet preserved bean curd."  Likewise, David Chang's recipe, in the Momofuku cookbook took almost 2 days, since I followed his suggestion to brine pork belly overnight, and then had to make the buns from scratch with bread flour and non-fat dried milk. They were fantastic...and my kitchen was a messy disaster!
However, in Easy Chinese Recipes, by Bee Yinn Low, the pork recipe took minutes and was very good even if they weren't as authentic as that of Yin-Fei Lo.  In addition, Bee Yinn Low suggestion that you can make good steam buns by steaming, "Pillsbury biscuit dough" had me literally laughing out loud.  It was a genius short-cut, especially for a working mom. And this is what I like most about Bee Yin Low's new cookbook. She isn't trying to emulate or replace others. (She, too, cites Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's fabulous book.)  Yinn Low is herself.
(photo by Diane Cu)
Reading the introduction to Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low, I wanted to root for her.   She has done what many of us bloggers long for (and are often to hesitant to do): to write her own book. It is so clear that she is so proud of this book and that it represents a tremendous amount of work.  She first created the website RasaMalaysia.com. This book, and her blog, are extensions of her desire to share her love of Asian food and her "interpretation of popular Chinese dishes."  One of the most impressive features of the book is the fact that the stunning photos are hers. As a food blogger for the last 4 years, I know how challenging it can be to create a gorgeous photograph of food.  In one of the most fascinating sections at the end of the book, Bee Yinn Low writes about the process of styling and photographing her dishes.

She begins with a two page autobiography of her journey from a hesitant cook to a passionate one, as well as how her family and friends influenced her path.  Bee Yinn Low's writing style is informal and personal.  The book is well organized, with a thematic recipe guide at the beginning and an index at the end.  She includes some fascinating techniques at the beginning, such as using baking soda to tenderize chicken and baking soda to make "shrimp bouncy."  She has a clear section about tools, utensils and ingredients.  Having the ingredients listed in Chinese would have made the book even more useful in an Asian Supermarket like Ming's or H-Mart. That being said, the photograph on pages 24 and 25 is just fantastic as it offers images of Yinn Low's recommeneded brands of vinegars and sauces.
For many people this book will be a wonderful introduction to cooking certain dishes.  Some are Americanized, such as one of the first recipes for "Tasty Lettuce Wraps" which is a riff on that dish from the restaurant PF Chang.  Yinn Low offers recipes for many Chinese restaurant favorites like Scallion pancakes, Cashew chicken and orange chicken.  Others are more interesting like Steamed Fish Filets and Fish Fragrant Eggplant.  Most dishes have meat. For example, even Mapo Tofu uses pork or beef.  Many are also fried such as Salt and Pepper squid.  My only wish? That Yinn Low had included some Malayasian recipes, though she notes that while she was born in Mayalsia, she grew up in a Chinese home.  And here is the truth: I still love the authenticity and the challenge of Yin-Fei Lo's book. But people who want simplicity and great taste, Yinn Low's book offers an accessible way to try a new style of cooking.

I made a fabulous meal from her book. The best part? It was enjoyed by adults and children and we never had the leave the house.

My rundown so far:

Cucumber Salad-This is nice and light. It transforms every day cucumbers into something a bit more exciting and delicious with pork.

Sweet Pork Buns-As I noted above, I modified these by trying the Cantonese BBQ Pork instead of the Crispy Roast Pork that used pork belly.  I had frozen steam buns in the freezer, but next time I am trying her Pillsbury secret!

Cantonese BBQ Pork-As I mentioned, I prefered Yin Lei Fo's version.  That being said, it was so much easier and all the ingredients are easily available at Whole Foods.

Fresh Mango Pudding-This is genuis (and is pictured above) though I confess I simplified it further by buying a pureeed can of Kesar's mango pulp at Whole Food's. But in seconds you have homemade pudding that is healthy and delicious.

Shaved Ice with Fresh Fruits-Red beans and fresh fruit are a light, easy and instant dessert.

To purchase Easy Chinese Recipes directly from Bee Yinn Low's website, just click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soba Delights at Cocoron, Lower East Side, New York City

After my lovely meal at Hibino in Cobble Hill, my obsession for homemade noodles and tofu was excelerated. So, with my friend Becky in tow, we headed over to the newly opened Cocoron Soba in the Lower East Side.
Whereas Habino specializes in Kyoto style dishes, Cocoron's identity is based on soba, or thin buckwheat noodles. We were laughing as we sat down as the manga (Japanese cartoons) and the menu had some very creative ways of arguing that soba is incredibly healthy.  We just thought it was wonderfully tasty. We began with warm yuba soba (pictured at the top of this post.) It consisted of a milky soy broth, kept warm with a sterno. We followed the directions as dipped our soba in for 10 seconds to warm them in the creamy liquid. We swirled the yuba, or tofu skin, for 15 seconds until it had the slimy, moist texture of egg whites. The dish was comforting.

We also shared the Chicken Burdock Dip Soba.  This hot pot had a broth that was fuller and was loaded with homemade chicken meatballs, shitake mushrooms and thinly sliced burdock root. It would be lovely on a cold winter day. Again, you swirled in the soba and at it with the lovely broth.
We were both enjoyed a side dish of miso coleslaw. What arrived was bright purple cabbage, steamed so it was tender but still having some bite. It was draped in a light miso dressing and was a good break to the soba. were both pleased with the miso coleslaw. What arrived was bright purple cabbage, steamed so that it was tender while still having bite and draped in a light miso dressing. Like at Habino, Cocoron's tofu dish was served with freshly grated ginger and scallions. But here I enjoyed one other treat: bonito or, well, fish flakes. 

Like at Habino, Cocoron's homemade tofu dish was served with freshly grated ginger and scallions. But here smoky bonito fish flakes were like flavored shards that  melted on the tofu. . Finally, we were offered sobu-yu or the water that the soba is cooked in. Again, both the menu and our server informed us that it was so healthy as the protein in soba leaches into the cooking water. You drink it, essentially like tea. I can't say I was downing the stuff, but at the end of the meal, it was...interesting!
Between this and Habino, I am left with an irony. In Boston and Cambridge, we have many wonderful sushi restaurants, but homemade tofu? Homemade soba? Udon? Kyoto-style sushi?  Until there is such a place, these restaurants are just more reasons to return to New York.

Cocoron Soba, 61 Delancy Street, Lower East Side, New York City

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Splendid Table's How To Eat Weekends: Better Than A Cookbook

Each week I turn to Lynne Rossetto Kasper's voice for comfort, guidance and compassion. Sure, the topic of her podcast, The Splendid Table, is food, but her warmth, curiosity and knowledge emanate deeper than just sustenance. And her voice is captured clearly in The Splendid Table: How to Eat Weekends, her second book with Sally Swift.  In their first book, How to Eat Supper, they focused on weeknight cooking.  In this volume, their goal was to focus on recipes that take a bit more time, a bit more thought. The authors hoped the resulting dishes would be both special and pleasurable.

I was optimistic about this book for a few reasons.  I knew that Rossetto Kasper understood food. I also knew how much she appreciates spices and full flavors from a range of ethnicities.  From How To Eat Supper it was clear that Rossetto Kasper and Swift were capable of writing a book that transcended the label of "cookbook."  In How to Eat Weekends, there are glorious recipes and photos.  But within the pages are also other treats. Kasper and Swift included quotes to inspire and a fabulous section called "Building the Library" in which they recommend their favorite books for regional cooking. They go further with collages of food from Italy, India, Mexico, Vietnam, Italy and China. Throughout the book are tips on everything from choosing a dining chair to a knife and matching wines. In "Cook to Cook" they offer up gems of kitchen wisdom to enlighten even the most knowledgeable chef.

As a working mom I also appreciated their "Work Night Encores" in which they transform leftovers into a quick weeknight meal.  They include clear directions about how to prepare elements of a dish in advance and how to store it for future meals.  I love the authoritarian (but never condescending) voice that insists that "fresh cut corn is key; frozen or canned simply will not make the cut."  And though some recipes are complex and have multiple elements, each element is wonderful on its own. For example, I used the candied lemon from the Unusual Italian Salad for the meatballs, salads, sorbet, a lemon cake.  And the truth is that none of the elements were too complicated.

Finally, though, it is the headnotes to each recipe that are such pleasures to read. Each one is a story that made me want to race out the grocery store and begin to cook. And I did. And here is my one confession: as I am single, some of the most exciting recipes, such as "Moussaka of Lamb and Red Wine Ragu" or the "Yucatan Pork in Banana Leaves" are more than I can eat, but it simply meant that I convinced a few friends to come over.  There were also many other dishes, such as the soups and salads, the pastas and chicken dishes, the vegetables and sides that were incredibly easy to down-size for my life.

The Treats I Tried So Far (In the Order That They Appear in the Book)

Pintos and Red Wine Soup with 20 Cloves of Garlic-This was a solid bean soup. It reheated beautifully and was best topped with thin slices of spicy salami, shards of Asiago and drizzles of olive oil.

Orange Onion Salad with Warmed Coriander Oil--The are two genius skills in this dish. First, the simple act of icing the red onions, takes the bite out and brings out the sweetness. Likewise, warming dried coriander in olive oil accentuates its wonderful citrus qualities. I ate this many times in one week.

North African Bread Salad-This salad hit the right notes with the mix of paprika, allspice, fennel and preserved lemon. It was even better on day two as the stale bread lapped up the dressing.

Grilled Lettuces with Pine Nut-Parmigiano Cream-While the dressing was a bit heavy for my taste, I loved the smoky taste of the grilled lettuce.

Pineapple, Greens and Tofu with Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing-As Rossetto Kasper and Swift write, this dish is wonderful on its own, but the dressing is just heavenly. I used it on seared tofu, rice and noodles later that week.

An Unusual Italian Salad (with Candied Lemon Peel and Balsamic Syrup)-I confess that I loved the balsamic syrup so much that I ate it by the spoonful...and on ice cream...and on oranges. I used the candied lemon peel in a lemon-yogurt cake and stirred into Aperol and vodka. Together, though, the salad is wonderful.

Barley Risotto with Saffron, Corn and Chives-This was a great side dish as it was easy, light and yet filling at the same time. I may skip the saffron next time as no matter how lightly I treat the spice, it still dominates.

Vietnamese Green Mango Noodle Salad with Grilled Pork-I made this dish vegetarian by braising tofu in the pork sauce. It was still fantastic and bursting with flavor.

Renassaisance Lasagna: This recipe was  irresistible filled with cinnamon, pancetta, cheese and pasta. I wanted to make it from the moment the authors wondered if it was "too quiet."  The most complicated part was buying the ingredients (all available at Whole Foods). It was a meditative meal to make and so different from the heavy, cheese filled lasagnas of childhood (or mine at least!).  The authors note it is best right after you make it. But the next day the flavors had combined even more, with the cinnamon lusting up from the meat. I plan to make the ragu again and serve it draped over homemade noodles.

Sweet-Sour Chicken Meatballs with Candied Lemon Peel-I loved the idea of this more than the reality. The spinach-almond-lemon-chicken meatballs were fine, but the flavor was too subtle for me to appreciate them.

Malaysian Spiced Pork: Oh, I wanted to love this. Mixing star anise, galangal, dark soy sauce and cloves just sounded like a spicy, sweet heaven. But, ironically, mine came out too one-dimensional. I tried to jazz it up with some fish sauce, a bit more palm vinegar and even some chilis, but it remained underwhelming.
French Radish Saute-This will transform people that insist they don't like radishes or think they are too sharp.  The gentle flavors worked beautifully on their own and next to chicken.
Farmhouse Roasted Potatoes-One of the blessings of this dish is the smell that transforms the kitchen. Fennel, garlic, oregano and pancetta creating a nutty, piney oder that perfumed my kitchen. These potatoes were wonderful the next day with scrambled eggs.
Braised Belgian Endive-A perfect example of how the simplest of vegetables, when cooked properly can sing. With a slow braise the bitterness of the endive melted away leaving a buttery, sweet, tender vegetable that was as good cool as it was warm out of the oven.

Stirred Old Fashioned Lemon Ice Cream-This is revolutionary. Really. Ice cream made with absolutely no ice cream maker. It it took about 5 minutes to prepare. Think frozen custard...with no eggs. I plan to try the recipe with other fruits.

Triple (Double) Chocolate Brownie Cake-With allspice and cinnamon this rich chocolate-espresso cake tasted of gingerbread. A day later the warm spices had faded to the background providing a subtle hint that it was more than just chocolate cake.

Chili Spiked Mexican Wedding Cookies: I liked these. They were tender and melted in my mouth. But I needed something more-a bit more salt? A bit more sugar? A bit more spice. Other friends insisted that they were just right.

The Splendid Table's How To Eat Weekend's is available September 20th.  You can buy it directly from the Splendid Table website here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not Your Mother's Brisket: Fatty 'Cue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

See that? See those ribs? Yeah. Well go and eat them. Really. I had been reading about Fatty 'Cue on and off for months and, in my first to Brooklyn, I knew it had to be at the top of the list. So, thus, my friend Seth and I were quickly taken in by Cat, waitress/bartender/friendly person who helped us design a menu of some of the best this place had to offer.

We started with thin shavings of celery with yuzu, tianjin preserved cabbage and sesame oil. Think Asian-inspired cole slaw. But lighter. It was good. But it really just set us up for the best ribs either me or Seth, of Dadventures, had ever had. And we have eaten quite a few ribs in our time. These things are just CRAZY good. They are burnished with a smoked fish-palm glaze. And they are the most succulent I have ever had, in large part because they are smoked for 4 to 5 days!

The "Bowl of Noodles" smelled heavenly, a combination of the thin ramen noodles, and the real bone-based broth. We were instructed to mix the noodles from the bottom up, along with the scallions and scarlet red homemade (and mild) Siracha that graced the side.
I was glad we chose the manila clams for two reasons. First, the clams were a great side track from the meat. That being said this dish filled my nose and mouth with a mixture of curry leaves, their own coriander bacon and more bone broth. It was impossible not to sop up the thick pieces of white bread with the elixar.
But all that was really a preface for the most fantastic of all (or at least a tie with the ribs): the brisket. And, sorry, mom, this just isn't your brisket. What arrived were a duo of thin slices of brisket and thick, fatty chunks of meat. They were served alongside the fullest and most tender of bao; garlicky, rich aioli and sweet-warm chili jam. We piled the jam, the aioli and meat and coriander leaves on the bao and then dipped them, still warm, into the bone broth on the side. This was, quite simply, insanely good. It was unlike anything I had ever eaten and was precisely why I had come to New York in the first place: to get food that is incomparable.

My drinks were good as well. I started with a Stone Fashioned which consisted of bourbon, peach-apricot-nectarine, autumn bitters and citrus peel. It was a bit difficult to drink as it was served in a metal cup loaded with ice. But as it melted it was a great contrast to the heavy food. Cat then offered up a Smokin' Bone, which, ironically, I had passed on when I initially saw it on the cocktail menu. And, yet, I loved it. It was made up of whiskey, 1/2 ounce regular pineapple syrup and 1/2 ounce smoked pineapple syrup, lime, tabasco and, yes, chocolate bitters. She nailed the balance so it didn't taste too smokey or too sweet.

At the end we were offered pies. We passed. But Cat tossed us one of the signature dark chocolate bars that are made for the restaurant. It was full of roasted almonds, sea salt and a spicy blast of chilis.

This place is casual-it was previously a biker bar. So, don't feel the need to get too gussied up. Check it out. See what you think. And go hungry.

Fatty 'Cue, 91 South Sixth Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg), NY

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Treat of Hako Sushi at Hibino, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

In Adam Sachs' article, "Kyoto Obsession," he points out that the difference between store bought and homemade Kyoto style tofu is like the difference between chalk and cheese. Having had homemade tofu on my last trip to New York, I knew what he meant. And thus, I catapulted Kami into checking out Hibino with me in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. Ironically, though, what I loved most about this meal wasn't the homemade tofu, but the spectacular sushi. But more on that soon.
We began our meal with an obanzai, or Kyoto-homestyle dishes. In this case it was a light and flavorful yuzu ohitashi. Baanched spinach wrapped around thin shreds of carrots, Hakusai cabbage, eringi mushrooms. The yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit brightened the dish.
Next, the homemade tofu, served warm in an adorable container. We scooped up the custardy goodness with fresh grated ginger, sliced scallions and sweet-salty dashi. It was good. Don't get me wrong. Next, we each had a salad, both consisting of mesclun mixed tossed with onion-soy dressing. Kami's featured seared tuna, while mine had ribbon like slices of yellow tail.
Then, an unusual dish listed as Shrimp Toji Maki or Kyoto style shrimp roll. It was the thinnest yuba (or tofu skin) wrapped around layers of plump shrimp and then fried lightly.

The highlight, though, was Kyoto style Hako sushi (pictured at the top of this post.). The fluffy sushi rice was pressed and layered with honey-like kanpyo and shiso-leaf, a unique herb tasting like a cross between a sour plum, basil and mint. Layered on top were thin slices of buttery salmon. And, finally, on top of that were jewels of barely coated in Hishiho miso. It was unlike any sushi I have ever had.
We ended the meal with two desserts. Kami chose the green tea ice cream, while I continued my night of soy by having homemade chilled soy pudding. It was creamy and cold, but I wasn't licking the spoon. Instead I was longing for more Hako-Sushi!

Hibino, 333 Henry Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels: A Wonderful Introduction to Japanese Cooking

The cherry tomato salad with shiso was a light, flavorful and colorful way to start dinner.  The mushrooms with soy sauce and butter were almost creamy, earthy and defined "umami."  The Japanese rice bowl was so flavorful and yet so light. The sweet red bean crepes capped a wonderful meal. The best part? This dinner took place with good friends and family in my backyard rather than in the cool environment of a restaurant. Thanks to a preview copy of My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels, I have had a chance to both learn about Japanese cuisine and try to create it at home. Thanks to Ms. Samuel's ability to make Japanese food accessible it has been a successful (and tasty!) week.  
Photograph by Heath Robbins
I have long adored the sushi at Oishii (in Chestnut Hill and Sudbury), Oga's, O Ya and Fugakyu. But I have had to travel to New York to eat more varied Japanese food, such as the incredible tofu at Habino, soba at Cocoron and ramen at Ippudo. I rarely cooked it at home as the dishes seemed too complex and the ingredients too hard to find. However, Ms. Samuels has countered both of these beliefs.  I suspect it is her experience as a cooking educator that helped her to write a book that is welcoming, interesting and the least intimidating as possible.  In fact, it will be the book I recommend to any friend who wants to try Japanese cooking.
Cooking Yakitori with Red Pepper and Lemon
The book is well organized. It starts with a memoir of sorts, based on Ms. Samuels' life of travel to Japan and cooking with Japanese friends and family. From there she includes a wonderful 4 page introduction to Japanese cuisine that is perfect for novices and also offers gems like the meaning of the sounds: "Sa, shi, su, se and so."
Tomato and Tofu Salad; Savory Pancake and Cabbage Noodles
Her guide to Japanese ingredients and useful equipment is also required reading.  It offers a balance of text and images to clarify what you may need. I also appreciated that she tried to focus her list of "essential" ingredients and then to replicate the use of them throughout the book.  If the ingredients had been written in Japanese it would have made it easier to use the book as a guide at grocery stores when seeking out shiso or daikon, for example.  
Daikon with Sweet Miso, Summer Noodle Salad and Mushrooms With Soy and Butter
As for the recipes, I appreciated that they are grouped by category in the front of the book and then in an index at the back.  The variety of healthy, light, and quick meals made it easy and delightful to cook from the book.  There are many vegetarian dishes and variations on meat recipes which could create new tofu lovers.  Ms. Samuels offers both traditional Japanese recipes (such as sushi), updates (such as lobster rolls) and treasured recipes from her friends.  Once I had bought some basics-decent mirin, sake, seaweed and bonito, I was able to create many meals for very little money.  At times the headnotes almost too extensive (and the font too small on the dust jacket)  but at the same time, I appreciated the personal nature and stories that Ms. Samuels shared.  The absolutely gorgeous photography by Heath Robbins provided a glimpse into each dish and reflected the artisnary of Japanse food.  My only quibble: I wish that the recipes had clear storage information as I wasn't sure how to save my extra matcha cupcakes, or how long my daikon salad would last in the refrigerator.  
Mushroom and Soba Noodle Soup
I also loved her section on Bento and how to prepare it for young children, as well as adults.  I hope to try out this section more now that the school year is in full gear. 

I was able to try a wide variety of dishes over the course of a week, in large part because her recipes are so easy and accessible.

A Week's Worth of Delights:

Crunchy Cucumber Pickles-I don't love cucumbers, but this recipe that I made in about 30 seconds transformed them into something spectacular. My new side dish.

Sweet Miso Sauce-this yummy sauce tastes almost dessert life. I am now a huge fan of white miso.

Kyoko's All Purpose Dashi Soy Sauce Concentrate-This smelled like the essence of a Japanese restaurant. Yum!

Stuffed Savory Pancake-Don't shy away from the bonito flakes. They add a smoky nuance that makes this Japanese street food (Okonomiyaki) even more delicious.

Yakitori-Ms. Samuels suggestion to serve the chicken with red pepper and lemon elevated this easy grilled chicken dish.

Cherry Tomato Salad with Shiso and Basil-A perfect use of seasonal tomatoes, even though it was a challenge to find shiso!

Refreshing Tofu Salad: a light salad that matched tomatoes, chunks of tofu and a sesame dressing. A perfect example of her quick and healthy recipes.

Carrot and Daikon Salad-This is a lightly pickled salad that was a nice accompaniment to the yakitori
Carrot and Celery Salad with Hijiki Seaweed-the Hijiki was too strong for me, but my friends devoured it.

Yoshie's Delicious Crab Fried Rice: This recipe is so much lighter and full of flavor than restaurant versions. I made it without crab and added edamame.  The best part of this dish? It is the perfect weeknight meal. I made it in 10 minutes at most and my kids loved it.

Rice Bowl With Three Toppings-I made this with tofu and swooned. It was comfort food at its best.

Mushroom and Soba Noodle Soup-I slurped this up on a cool and rainy summer day.

Fried Cabbage and Pork Noodles (Yakisoba): This dish is fantastic for kids. In minutes you have a dish that marries any vegetables (or protein) and noodles. The best part? You can use prepared Bull Dog sauce. The dish couldn't be quicker and even my most finicky son loved it.

Spring Rain Summer Noodle Salad-My sons and young niece adored this.

Shoko's Summer Sesame Chicken Salad-The smell of toasted and heated sesame oil wrapped itself around this wonderful salad.

Simmered Daikon with Citrus Miso-a new way to try daikon and one that mellows it out.

Grilled Eggplant (and Tofu) with Sweet Miso Sauce-Savory and sweet, tender and flavorful.

Eriko's Simmered Eggplant-Fast food at its best.
Tofu and Vegetable Scramble-this was wonderful served on top of rice. It was inexpensive and flavorful.

Japanese Mushroom Melange with Butter and Soy-Eat this and you will understand the concept of "umami." It took minutes to prepare and the smell was pretty heavenly.

Fruit Cup with Mochi and Sweet Bean Topping-This recipe, which combined strawberries and red beans (easily purchased at Asian food stores), convinced me that this instant dessert is a perfect combination.
Matcha Chocolate Coffee Cake-I liked the texture of this (and transformed the recipe into cupcakes), but would have preferred them with a bit less baking soda.
Crepes Stuffed with Red Bean Jam-It was a delight to make the crepes (and they freeze beautiful for future desserts) and was another great use for Sweet Bean Topping.

For more fabulous recipes, Ms. Samuels' website is rich with video, articles and a range of recipes for everything from OBento to okonomiyaki. She will also be speaking around Boston and the country in honor of her new book. The book officially comes out September 10, 2011 but you can already order it through Amazon.com.  I also was lucky enough to interview her. So watch for that post, as well. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Knife: Le Cordon Bleu Santoku by Wusthof at Amazon.Com

In the forthcoming book, Splendid Table's How To Eat Weekends, authors Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift write about good knives.  More specifically, they reference another author, Chad Ward who wrote, An Edge in the Kitchen.  According to Mr. Ward, you need to try out knives to decide if you like the French/German style or the Japanese style.  He notes that the former are sharper, but the later are lighter.  Until last week I understood what he meant.  My traditional Wusthof sliced well, but was heavy in my hand, especially since I am a short and relatively small woman.  My lighter knives, though, like my Kuhn Rikon, literally slipped out of my hands the first time I used it (hello, stitches!)  But recently, the kind folks at Wusthof were generous enough to send me a Santoku knife from the Le Cordon Bleu collection. And already it has become the only knife I use. The key? It is 30% lighter than their Classic Line and is made with their "Precision Edge Technology" (PEtec)  All that is a fancy way of saying that is light AND sharp.  And so far it has been a joy to use. I have diced potatoes, minced garlic, julienned carrots, sliced heirloom tomatoes and even used the sides to gently cube tofu.  In fact, it has been the only knife I have used since receiving it.  Hello, decluttering!  The best news? It is available for about $100.00.  In fact, I would recommend getting this one instead of a whole knife set which takes up far more room.  Just note that it is only available directly from Amazon.com or by clicking here.

Want more information from Wusthof about their Le Cordon Bleu line? Click here.

Want more information about The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends? Just wait, more posts are coming soon or go directly to the fabulous Splendid Table website!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wish it Was Closer: The BKLYN Larder, Brooklyn, New York

The impending chaos of Penn Station was the only thing that prevented me from buying most everything at the BKLYN Larder. Melissa Clark of the Good Appetite blog and column led me there after a Twitter exchange about buckwheat polenta. I assumed that any place that actually carried such an item would, inevitably, be a find. And it was. There were glorious containers of cherries, artisan bitters, special jams, olive oils, house-made pickles, and beautiful grains and pastas. (Think Fromaggio's...but with counter space and a table to sit and eat!) Gizella kindly created a lovely platter of cheeses, salumi and chocolate for me to try. She even created a guide to suggest which order I should eat them. I love that. I adored the range of cheeses-nutty, sharp, filling. The chocolate, Askinosie Cortes from Honduras, was a perfect compliment-fruity, dense, sour. But my favorite treat on the platter? The Saba! Huh? Right. Saba, apparently is the grape must syrup right before it becomes true balsamic. This version, from San Giacomo was the like best possible cross between maple syrup, chocolate and figs. It was heavenly on the cheese or on a spoon. I was just as smitten with the simple sounding beet salad. The chunky beets were tossed with olives, lush capers, chopped mint and, my favorite, long pieces of orange rind. The bitter orange transcended the sweet-saltiness of the rest of the salad. It was perfect and one I will definitely try to replicate at home. Apparently there were fewer items than normal at the Larder due to a power outage. And customers, used to a range of prepared salads, chickens, etc. were clearly a bit startled. But everyone seemed content to order sandwiches. I was happy just so sit, eat and enjoy what I had.The BKLYN Larder, 228 Flatbush between Bergen Street and Sixth (Park Slope/Prospect Heights), Brooklyn