Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pumpkin Seed Oil

I recently had a wonderful salad of paper thin radishes with pumpkin seed oil and toasted pumpkin seeds at Gruener in Portland, Oregon. This was a great salad and I repeated it at home, but not quite as well as at Gruener's (my version is still a work in progress).

Pumpkin seed oil

The great discovery was the pumpkin seed oil. It is a bit like a cross between hazelnut oil and toasted sesame oil, pungent and fragrant. Like those oils, a little goes a long way, but with care it can make a great salad dressing. Just mix with a little vinegar (3 parts red wine and 1 part or less balsamic) and dress the greens lightly. Especially good on arugula with shavings of parmesan on top. Here's one I made with thinly shaved mushrooms and alfalfa sprout instead of arugula.

Radish and mushroom salad with pumpkin seed oil
and pumpkin seeds

I'm sure there are many other uses for this delightfully aromatic oil; it would be a lovely finishing oil atop green beans, snap peas and many other vegetables, as well as over simply grilled fish filets.

Pumpkin seed oil is supposed to be healthful as well, but I don't have enough evidence to tout this as a benefit.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Momofuku Bo Ssam - Amazing Slow Cooked Pork

No wings for this year's Superbowl. Instead I made Momofuku Bo Ssam, David Chang's take on slow cooked pork, served with Korean dipping sauces and kimchee.

This recipe appeared in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago, and is totally simple to make. You just (1) rub the pork with a mixture of white sugar and Kosher salt, (2) let it sit overnight, (3) cook it at 300 for 6 hours or until it collapses, (4) let it sit for up to an hours, (5) rub with brown sugar and a little salt and cook at 500 for 15 minutes. Then serve it in a lettuce wrap with a little kimchee, a bit of rice, ginger/scallion sauce, and a drop of hot sauce made of Korean miso and chili paste. The only ingredients that are hard to find are the Korean bean paste (ssamjang) and chili paste (kochujang), but you can use any Asian hot sauce you like if these are not available.

I had plenty of leftovers and made a deconstructed version in salad form. Reheated the pork slowly, placed over chopped romaine lettuce and rice, then added kimchee and the ginger/scallion sauce as dressing, passing the hot chili sauce separately. An excellent salad, maintaining the balance of the original dish but with a different texture.

Bo Ssam Salad
Although the recipe calls for a bone-in shoulder weighing 8-10 pounds, I used a 3-3/4-pound boneless shoulder, so the 6-hour cooking time worked out to less than 4 hours. The meat was Berkshire pork acquired at Heritage Farms USA's shop at the Essex Market: marbled with lots of fat that melted off in the slow cooking process, which resulted in a particularly tasty and unctuous dish.

Bobby Jay

Essential Pépin - Jacques Does It Again

Jacques Pépin is my idol. He has been cooking for 60 years and teaching and writing for half that time, writing more than 20 cookbooks and doing several series on PBS. He is a joy to watch; his technical competence, charm and obvious love of cooking are infectious.  Just look at this picture of him.

Jacques' most recent book is Essential Pépin, which is accompanied by a series on PBS of the same name. It contains more than 700 recipes, mostly French of course, but reflecting his relentless drive towards simplification while staying true to the essence of things. It also reflects changes in the produce and ingredients that are available to modern cooks, including influences and products from Asia and elsewhere. I love Jacques' Fast Food My Way and More Fast Food My Way, but Essential is a far more ambitious book, which seeks, successfully, to do what its title suggests: to share a lifetime of cooking experience and insight.

I have tried only a few recipes from the book, but they have been clearly expressed, easy to follow and uniformly excellent:

  • the best Tapenade I have ever made
  • an amazing Pork Liver Pâté that tasted as good as you'd find at a Parisian charcuterie
  • Mémé's Apple Tart - Jacques'mother's recipe for an apple tart with a fantastic easy-to-make crust made with shortening and baking powder
  • Baked Stuffed Onion - here I used overly large onions, which didn't break down as much as desired
  • Dried Apricot and Pistachio Soufflé - this was gorgeous but just a little light - no egg yolks, which is a good thing - and not quite sweet enough for my taste; I plan to do it again with sweeter apricots or figs
  • Braised Pears in Caramel Sauce - this was not pretty (I used brown sugar and got a muddy looking caramel) but is easy to make and very tasty.

Pork Liver Pâté and Dried Apricot Soufflé

Mémé's Apple Tart and Braised Pears in Caramel

This is a really great cookbook, worthy of space on anyone's shelves. I also highly recommend the companion TV series.

Bobby Jay

PS: A day after this post, I made Jacques' Apples "Bonne Femme," simple bakes apples: another winner that tastes like what a French mother would make (or what one might imagine she would make).