Summery Burgers (y tacos accidentales)

Some time around February in New York, I got a little claustrophobic,  a little sick of the cold, and a little nostalgic for a grill and some personal space.

I figured I had the most control over the grilling aspect, so I tried mimicking a cilantro cream sauce I had at JoeDoe, threw together a carrot mango slaw I’d seen frequently at Westside Market, and then sauteed some teriyaki and mango infused burgers on the stovetop.  Not ideal, but paired with a few beers it was a nice wintry mix of summer color:

Siiiii, Aventura!

This probably looks way better than it was; I found both garnishes a little bland that night.  And at JoeDoe, you’d be dipping cheese curds in that cilantro sauce.  It’s only downhill from there.

A little disappointed in the burgers, something funny happened the next night when I channelled my inner taco truck.  Maybe there was less interference from a wheat bun, or maybe the flavors in the slaw and the cilantro sauce needed a night to bond; whatever it was, when I turned this stuff into tacos it got way tastier:

Much better

Due to the fact that I made this months ago with a hunch for a recipe, this will probably amount to the least helpful instructional toolkit of all time.  But you’ll at least find the building blocks for something colorful …  Continue reading

Asian Style Lettuce Wraps

This is going to be a double post on what to do with a cheap pork shoulder.  The first recipe is for asian style lettuce wraps.  We tried to make them into our main course, but after eating 5 of them I was still hungry.  So our recommendation is to use them as an appetizer and cook something a little heavier for the main course

These little guys are a delight to make.  What you’ll need:

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • Sugar and Salt
  • Radishes
  • Anaheim or pepper of your choice
  • Green Onions
  • Lettuce Cups
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

The Sauce – basically a sweet and spicy thing.  Mix these all up well, picture below.

  • Splash of Agave Nectar
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic (we used a serrano infused one) But you could add some pepper seeds to add some heat.
  • a couple dashes of Olive Oil (Toasted Sesame oil if ya got it)
  • splash soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove minced

First you’re gonna want to rub that pork shoulder real well with a mixture of about a 1/4 cup salt and a 1/4 cup sugar.  But that depends on the size of your pork. I think ours was about a pound and a half.  Then throw it into a slow cooker if you planned ahead, or in the oven like we did.  We were in a bit of a hurry and so we cooked it on a pan for about an hour on 450 then covered it in the oven and let it cook for another 2.5 hours or so.  Something like that.  Again you’ll have to judge.

Image Continue reading

Peasant’s Polenta – or Ugali

Polenta is peasant food for folks like us. Make it up, add the cheese, season to taste, and serve. That’s it in a nutshell.  Except I don’t use creme cheese. Use parmesan, use asiago, use something a peasant would use, something that doesn’t require refrigeration. I don’t imagine many peasants with a package of Philadelphia Creme Cheese on hand.

My recipe:

  • 4 cups of water (or 2 cups water to 2 cups stock)
  • 1 cup of polenta (not instant – the peasant kind)
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 2 gloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese (or other peasant hard cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water (or water and stock) and when rolling, slowly add the polenta stirring to mix. When all nicely stirred in (~1 minute), add the butter and crushed garlic. Turn heat to medium/medium low, and stir frequently as the polenta thickens. You’ll start to see the wooden spoon tracing in the bottom of the pan, a sign that all is going well.  When thickened (~20-25 minutes), add the cheese and mix in thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve as is, with marinara, gravy, eggs, however you want to eat it.

In East Africa, folks eat a similar dish called ugali in Kiswahili – it’s a bit grainier in texture and made from white maize.  My point: if you cut out the butter and seasoning and simply serve thickened polenta in a beautifully sculpted mound with a side of fried greens and tomato gravy, you can eat it with your hands like a Tanzanian villager for Ethnic Grimm Fest.

Anafanya ugali nzuri leo... Asante dada, tupo pamoja - karibu Ethnic Grimm Fest!

A Bear’s Head Tooth from the Forest…

Foraging in the shadow of coyotes...

All this week it rained.  For the first time in months, the rains washed over Marin and covered the fields and forest with a coat of mud, moss, and mushrooms.  So, on Saturday Misty, Moshi, Mr. Munerantz, and I headed out to Cataract Falls to hunt some fungi.

Mushroom hunting is a different sort of stalking.  The seasons vary, the fungi are many and difficult to identify (mycologists estimate we have identified only 10% of all fungi on earth), and there is always the risk of harvesting and consuming poisonous mushrooms resulting in multiple organ failure.  For us, mushroom hunting is really about seeing the forest, and listening to the wilderness.  There is something calming, almost meditative about foraging for wild foods; suddenly you see the birds whose song was simply background noise on a hike, you are aware of the deer and coyote paths weaving around the main trail, and under that thick litter layer of organic debris, the duff, you mine the jewels of the old woods.

Hericium (Bear's Tooth) on a trunk

Misty is a born forager.  While some of us move quickly through the forest to see what lies ahead, Misty, like Red Riding Hood, doesn’t get straight to grandmother’s house and instead sees all that is around her, stopping to smell a blossom, feel some moss, taste some wood sorel, or pick some mushrooms.  On a bend in the trail over the second drop of the Falls this Saturday Misty said “Hey check this out!”  About 7 feet up the trunk of a Doug Fir, she spotted a massive icicley clump of white fungus. It smelled fresh and sweet, and frankly is the only mushroom I’ve ever held that was so obviously edible.   I harvested it with my machete, leaving about half to continue sporing so the fungus would survive, and we continued on down the trail.

At home we identified it as Hericium americanum, or the Bear’s Head Tooth mushroom.  From American mushrooms:

“The great news is that these delicious fleshy fungi are among the safest, most unmistakable of all of North America’s species of edible wild mushrooms: If it looks like a cluster of white fungal icicles hanging off a decaying log, stump, or dead tree trunk, and it seems very fresh, bake it (or fry it slowly in a mix of butter and oil) and enjoy…. “

Bear's Head Tooth on the cutting block

A close up of Hericium's icy tentacles.

We took the Bear’s Head Tooth home, sauteed it on medium heat in about 2 tablespoons of butter with garlic (3 cloves minced), seasoned with salt and pepper, and served.  It’s like dining on a fungal version of buttery fresh lobster. Simply amazing.

Sauteed and ready to serve.