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Monday, December 7, 2015

Yay, leftovers!

I've got nothing against turkey hash. Turkey sandwiches can be sublime, especially on fresh-outta-the-oven multigrain bread with cranberry sauce. Turkey tetrazzini was something my sister and I looked forward to every year.  But take it from me: there is no better use for leftover turkey than cooking the carcass into a rich, copper-colored stock and using that stock to make turkey congee. On drizzly early-December mornings, with the goodness of bone broth and nostalgia, it warms my tummy and my soul.

What's your favorite use of turkey leftovers?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hey, leggo my...congee

(actually, I'm so stoked Kamal ate some of my radish-greens congee this morning that I don't even mind that he stole my spoon.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Double duty

I'm enamored with things that serve more than one purpose. I don't know if it comes from spending my first adult decade-plus in space-starved Manhattan apartments, but I still get excited over sofas that double as beds and tables that fold into bigger tables. Part of the reason I have so many big scarves is that they can spread out into picnic blankets or wrap into cozy swaddles for a baby or tie into shopping bags. My bike is equipped to function as a child-carrying, grocery-getting, quadriceps-building machine. I hunt for shoulder bags that covert to backpacks. I wear jewelry that works as toys for Kamal. All my favorite stuff multitasks. 

So it stands to reason that I love beets and radishes in the garden. These little jewels do double duty by growing both delicious root vegetables and luscious, flavorful greens.

I planted this row of French Breakfast radishes a few weeks ago, and today they were bursting out of the ground, nestled thickly together under their bright leaves.

Ombre is soooo two years ago. But these guys are bringing it back, am I right?

I sliced off the greens and sauteed them in coconut oil with a lovely egg fresh from our chickens. Then I sliced the radishes and left them raw, fanned out over the top of my bai zhou

I  know not everyone thinks of radish greens as palatable, or even as edible. They're kind of fuzzy, after all, and it's easy to get used to just seeing radishes as the uninspiring little pink-and-white  circles parked on the sidelines of the salad bar. But radish greens are fantastic--fresh, succulent, a little bit peppery. Fresh radishes are crisp, spicy perfection. 

Traditionally, French breakfast radishes are halved, spread with butter, and sprinkled with sea salt. This is a pretty heavenly dish, an ideal example of the simplest food often being the best. For today's congee, I analogized a bit and used a dash of soy sauce in place of the sea salt, and a few drops of sesame oil stood in for the butter. 

That yellow! That fuschia! That green!

After a four-mile run, dropping Kamal off at daycare and then heading home, it was the perfect, happiest breakfast. So good, in fact, that I just might have it for dinner, too. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

California congee

Bai zhou topped with a sliced half avocado, gojujang, and and a lovely fried egg fresh out of the backyard. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gojujang, my favorite farmer's market, and call for HALP

When Tara Goodman (of Adafina Culinary and, of course, Goodman's Jewish Deli) brings you over some house-made gojujang, you do not waste any time in putting that fermenty hotness on your congee. And on everything else.  We made some Korean fried chicken with it, too, using this delicious recipe, and I smelled like the garlic capital of the world for DAYS, and it was totally worth it. The gojujang is really different from Adam's sriracha--much, much funkier and more umami. They're definitely not interchangeable, but they're both fabulous examples of their class.

And speaking of things that are fabulous examples of their class, my favorite farmer's market is opening for the season today. Today! Right now, even! We are beyond lucky to have tons of fantastic farmer's markets to choose from here in Sonoma County, but this one is dear to my heart, in part because it's almost in my backyard, and in part because it's just a fantastic mix of vendors and open space.

You guys, if you're reading this and in Sonoma County, you need to go to the opening day of the West End Farmer's Market. Goodman's Jewish Deli is there, serving house-made fresh rye bread and pastrami and the best Reuben I have ever had in my life, as well as other delicious things--check out the menu on their Facebook page.  Handlebar Farm will be there, with beautiful greens and crisp, sweet carrots that look like they came right off the pages of a vintage Beatrix Potter book. And the Jellyrolls, featuring the lovely voice of the lovely Dawn Zaft, owner of my favorite place to take a morning meeting (aka the Criminal Baking Company and Undercover Noshery), will be performing! And there's a lovely green space, right outside of the historic DeTurk Round Barn, for kiddos to run around and play and all of us to sit and picnic. I. Can't. Wait. 

So I'm gonna hustle and get me and Kamal ready to go shop, eat, play and dance. I hope I see you there!

Oh, and here's my quick call for help: I love writing this blog, but am feeling really challenged finding the time to do it, as a mother and business owner and person with lots of interests. (Just writing this post, I stopped about ten times to kiss booboos, clean up spills, fish urgently-needed toys out from behind the couch...and on other days, I see patients, too!) I'd love to hear tips from you on how you make time to do the things you love. Thanks!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Adam's (fermented) Sriracha recipe

Every year Adam plants a whole bunch of hard-neck garlic, originally sent to him by his dad in Pennsylvania, who's selected his favorite varieties over years of growing garlic. In another section of the garden, he plants lots and lots of peppers, all kinds of peppers, mostly hot but some sweet: cayennes, jalapenos, chilepenos, habaneros, Thai bird chiles, paprika peppers, Ho Chi Minh peppers, black Hungarian peppers and more. The list is different every year.

In this photo: Leeks, lettuces, radishes, ready-to-harvest garlic and teeny baby pepper plants (below the trellis)

By the time we harvest the peppers, the garlic has been hanging and drying in the garage for months. The peppers and garlic come together in Adam's fiery Sriracha, which I put on my congee every morning.

Towards the end of 2011--just a couple of months before we found out we were expecting Kamal--Adam and I went on a three-week road trip, in which we visited lots of good people, toured ten national parks, and cooked in a wide range of settings, from the well-equipped kitchens of our friends to campstoves set on bear lockers. On our very first day, driving up the coast on twisty Route 1, Adam suddenly gasped, then cried out, "Oh, God! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!"

Of course I thought something terrible had happened--that we were about to veer off a cliff, for example, or crash into a giant redwood. "What?" I squeaked. "What, what is it?"

"I forgot to pack the Sriracha!" wailed Adam. "What are you going to do for breakfast?" 

We debated getting some store-bought, but it really isn't anywhere near as good--I haven't actually touched the stuff since Adam started making his own. In the end, we called our housesitter and had some overnighted to us. It was totally worth it.

Sometimes Adam will draw me a Sriracha happy face.

Here's the link to the fermented Sriracha recipe Adam uses, as well as, in his own words, the adjustments he makes to it. (He's made the fresh version as well, but we've agreed--as does the author of the linked recipe--that we like the fermented better.)

Folks, here's my terrific Adam:

I started making this a couple of years ago to find a way to use up all our hot pepper. Now, it is the reason we grow so many hot peppers. I use a mix of peppers (typically 6-10 varieties), mostly hot, but will throw in a few sweet to provide balance.
I use the fermented version on Andrea Nguyen's blog found here
I add approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of fish sauce to it also.
Last year I ran the finished sauce through a food mill as it was super seedy (I used a lot of thai and cayenne peppers last year).
We just freeze it in 1/2 pint jars, but I'm sure you could can it also. IF YOU DECIDE TO CAN IT, PLEASE FOLLOW SAFE PRACTICES (such as from the Ball Book of Home Preserving).

Salt and pepper are important, but this Sriracha has my heart. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ending and beginning

So my Year of Congee ended on December 31st, and I've been thinking about where to take this blog. Because the thing is, even though we're in the second month of 2015, I'm still eating congee for breakfast, and I still think you should, too.

Bai zhou, kale sauteed with spicy Italian sausage, perfect medium-boiled egg

What did I learn from my year of eating congee for breakfast every day? Well, mainly that I feel a lot clearer, stronger and more effective when my body doesn't have to work really hard to digest its first meal of the day. Also that even though there are an infinite number of ways to prepare congee, I don't get sick of what's become my standby: bai zhou topped with an egg,sauteed kale and Adam's homemade sriracha. Also, I like white rice a lot better than brown rice in congee, and I'm okay with that.

To take along for a long day at the clinic: a jar of bai zhou with egg and greens, and two jars of farro and lentil salad

And also, perhaps most importantly, I've loved, loved, loved writing about something that speaks to health, to food as medicine for the body and soul, to traditional Chinese nutritional therapy, and to the Asian kitchen culture in which I grew up. I've felt so much joy in seeing all of your responses to this blog, and in seeing your responses to the congee you made for yourself.  Championing this humble, healthy, nourishing, elemental food has meant far more to me than I expected when this project began.

So I'm going to keep writing here. I'm going to write mostly about congee, and I'm also going to write about food as medicine in general; about my own approaches to health and the recommendations I make to my patients; and about the food industry, how it fails us and where it helps us. I'm going to write about the food we grow in our backyard and the food we cook in our kitchen. I'm going to tell you about how I manage things like colds and flu and body image and insomnia and being a working mother with a totally rad toddler and a busy little clinic.

Rad toddler dancing on 50 pounds of rice

And I'm going to talk about my parents, whose memory infuses every grain of rice I eat. There's no connection, for me, to food without both of them. For better or for worse, each coriander seed pressed between a mortar and pestle, each delicate sliced ring of scallion, keeps them close to me.

But mostly I'm going to write about congee, because, after all, that's where it all starts. Every morning.