Sometimes in this life you have to shake your senses up. Step outside the doldrum of your routine and bring a little fear of the unknown into the equation. Currently I wage the battle with this thing called fear. I have walked a sure and steady path for years now. Sleep came easy and the bills were paid. Now I stand on the precipice of discovery, heartbreak and ultimately a very human experience. Leaving gardening and plunging into the fire of a culinary path for earnest and true.
I am bound for southeast asia in a few months to blow in the breeze and work outside my comfort zone. I am ready to taste and explore a world so vastly different from everything I have ever known. Food is my ticket, and baby I am ready to board that fuckin’ plane. A healthy dose of fear is my main baggage.
Food can make you sigh with pleasure, comfort your broken heart, evoke powerful memories and it can open your mind to horizons you never dreamed about. It can transport you through your senses to places you’ve never been. It can bring that element of fear right to your plate. I decided to work with silkie chicken as a symbol of this current tidal wave of fear. If your unfamiliar with silkie chickens they have a natural purplish black hue to their flesh. This is not what we typically want in our chicken which is generally chosen as a comforting food rather than a challenging food.
I wanted to maintain this color and deepen it to what you now know to be my favorite color, black, so I chose to smoke it. I paired it with ginger infused forbidden black rice, spicy pickled enoki mushrooms, pickled purple cabbage, pickled Quail eggs and served with a ginger spiked dashi broth.
Never settle for a life that leaves you wondering what you could have done. Step into the abyss and find out what is waiting down there in the dark of the unknown. In respect to my current mindset I name this dish the Phoenix, cause sometimes you have to burn everything to the ground for anything new to grow. And just to relate it to the garden path I have walked for so long, even the forest knows this. Only after a fire do we see such magical things as morels.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Frank Herbert, Dune
That time has come to us once again. The day and night find a balance. We reemerge from the shadows to find the joys of lighter clothes, animals freaking and plants bursting forth with color and fragrance to relieve our tired winter senses. Even for a crank like me, spring holds me in it’s spell.
Spring, most importantly, mean asparagus. That complexly flavored veggie that only stays around for a few short weeks. But oh, what a glorious few weeks it is. Rising out of the ground like a tiny chlorophyll packed tower just waiting to make you feel awkward about the way your pee smells in a public restroom. Grilled, steamed or made into soup, bring it on till it runs dry.
chilled asparagus soup with yogurt, meyer lemon and terragon swirl and fried tips and meyer lemon zest
So, to you I say, happy spring. It’s almost time to set aside root veggies and indulge in a sensuous new cooking season. May it bring you closer to nature in a way you never thought imaginable.
It all started with an emu egg. So glorious in its aquatic toned speckles, it beckoned to me and I was powerless to resist. I have a very special connection with Emu’s, this being the power animal of one of my favorite people on the planet. I had to make sure to take this product seriously, and well, not so seriously. The balance of my relationship with my human Emu is just such. We appreciate the vast and innumerable differences we have and yet these are the things that have kept us bonded and infatuated with each other over the years. Yes, I do refer to her as the Emu, please stop rolling your eyes.
First off, when dealing with an egg of this size you get to use power tools to open it. This is always a bonus for me! I debated with my culinary colleagues about the best process for opening this treasure and being the male dominated brains they are they opted for tools that would give me straight edges to work with. Dremel was first choice for them but I opted for a simpler technique of drilling a series of holes and then just cracking it open to obtain a more jagged appearance in the finished product. Now, what to make? So much egg to deal with.
I ran through all the potentials in my head of mousse, baking a soufflé in the actual shell, poaching one giant egg… but when it came down to it pasta was the best choice. Yes, another post about pasta. Sorry. Why pasta though? Cause what else would look more like a nest? and why not pair it with quail to add humor and tastiness to the project? So this silliness was born:
a posse of quails, chillin, pre seasoning.
- coriander grilled quails in an emu tagliatelle nest
Now for the more serious side of this project. Quail has always been a fond meat for me and pairing it with dark fruits like cherries or plums really makes me happy. Here in Cali we are still months away from these fruits so I purchased dried santa rosa plums and soaked them for a few hours in a port wine bath. I pulled the meat off the little birds, pureed the plums and mixed them together to stuff some emu raviolis and then finished the dish with a sauce beurre blanc studded with port poached plums and garnished with fennel frond.
human size portion
I fell in love with panna cotta long ago. The silkiness of this dessert is heaven to me. Texture, texture, texture. One of my favorite things about eating. For my 30th birthday my husband took me to Michael Mina’s in San Francisco. I had a sea urchin panna cotta that transported me to another world. I closed my eyes and felt as if I were walking on the ocean. It was one of those moments with food that was so powerful that to this day I can recall it with almost perfect clarity.
A few weeks ago we ate at AQ and had a palate cleanser of rose panna cotta that left me aching for more. It pulled at my longing for summer gardens and that heady fragrance of rose in the air and the droning of bees working their pollinating magic. So the only logical thing to do of course was to come home and recreate that magic.
I just took a basic panna cotta recipe using Straus milk and cream. Instead of adding vanilla I used a tablespoon of rose water. Let the silky love unfold! I also made a blood orange sauce to accompany it, the citrus lends a beautifully clean finish on the palate.
natures glistening jewel
one of a kind design, especially for me, by the lovely and talented Anna Payden.
rose panna cotta with blood orange sauce and jasmine blooms
floating in a sea of blood
So, for those that know me, you know black is where it is at for me. For those that don’t know me, consider yourself educated on such matters. Recently I have been obsessed with the idea of developing an all black dish, which has spiraled into an all black menu. So of course, squid ink has to be involved! Also what better way to start this bloggy thing than with a black dish. Oh, maybe you were expecting bone marrow? Don’t worry, that will be coming soon. Mmmm, marrow.
So, locating squid ink is fairly easy, you just need a good fish monger. I happen to love Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley and they are getting pretty used to me popping in and antagonizing them. I was able to procure cuttle fish ink, which is essentially the same thing, from these masters of aquatic delights, for a fair price. While I was there I also had to pick up a few lobsters, cause well, I just had too.
So cuttle fish ink tagliatelle was my project for dinner and I must say, what a fun way to spend the afternoon. Making pasta is like taking a trip back to childhood, play doh factory anyone?
Yep, thats a blue egg. Isn’t she lovely?
Oh yes, black.
a great stress reliever, working the dough.
ribbons of love
I served it with these guys all roasted with butter and garlic chives, simple and delicious.