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More Citrus Shrubs

8 Apr

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After last year’s enjoyable experience making shrubs (a shelf-stable way to preserve fruit with vinegar and sugar, for mixing into soda water, cocktails, salad dressings, and so on), I’ve spent a few more weekends trying new citrus, new vinegars, and different ratios, as well as using oleo saccharums (citrus oils extracted from the peel with sugar: I posted some photos of the process yesterday).

Bergamot / Cider Vinegar Shrub

Since much of the unique flavor of bergamot is in the zest, an oleo saccharum is key. I combined the peel of four bergamots with 2/3 cups of white sugar (let sit and periodically kneaded for about 10 hours, see photos)– by the end of that time I could smell it even through the bag. I added that to the juice of 17 bergamots (about 2 cups), another 1 1/3 cups white sugar, and, by trial and error, 3/4 cups of my favorite cider vinegar (Bragg).

The vinegar flavor was a little overpowering, initially, but it’s supposed to mellow over time… and indeed, after sitting for a week it’s become one of my favorite shrubs– one spoonful livens up a glass of sparkling water.

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Kaffir Lime Shrub

I’d been brought a gift of fresh kaffir limes (which I’d never seen before), just on the edge of turning brown, and knew immediately I wanted to preserve their flavor with a shrub. The peel has the same distinctive scent as kaffir lime leaves, a dry, spicy, and floral citrus.

Since they’re so knobby, they were a huge pain to peel– normal peelers or zesters were useless, so I used a small knife and painstakingly trimmed off rind and then removed pith… ending up with the peel of 15 kaffir limes packed in 1/2 cup sugar to make an oleo saccharum, plus the juice of the limes (only half a cup, quite dry), and almost 1/2 cup of a very mild neutral rice vinegar. This gave me a dry, perfume-like shrub that’s great to splash into water or champagne.

Calamansi Lemongrass Shrub

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I don’t have the exact proportions written down, but this excellent shrub (probably my favorite basic citrus shrub) combined tiny calamansi (which I just sliced in half and packed in sugar, extracting both oleo saccharum and juice), additional lime juice, half a stalk of finely-sliced lemongrass, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Meyer Lemon Peppercorn Shrub

The peel of 9 meyer lemons in ⅔ cup sugar, the juice of 18 (about 2 cups), another 1 ⅓ cups sugar, mint leaves, black peppercorns, and a mix of cider and white vinegars. Easy.

I’m looking forward to exploring further this summer once non-citrus fruits are in season…

 

flour + water pasta tasting

14 Mar

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One of the best pasta tastings I’ve had there. The anise-ish tarragon in the beet mezzaluna! The stripes of mint in the tagliatelle with bottarga!

Simpatica Dining Hall + Bushwhacker Ciders (PDX)

1 Mar

A reservation made months ahead of time turned out to be on the evening of a special cider-themed collaboration with Bushwhacker Cider. How fortunate.

Kitchen and dining room:

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The chicories with leek ash and egg (no photo) were amazing.

Chestnut soup with fried Jerusalem artichokes:

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Pickled quail egg, salmon roe…

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Gin-barrel-aged cider. And Alice (their granny smith cider) on tap.

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Butter turnips. Excellent rutabaga. And sure, some pork.

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PDX Food: Apizza Scholls

28 Feb

Apizza Scholls: still one of my very favorite pizzas in the US (New Haven style), up there with DiFara’s in Brooklyn and Pizzaiolo in Oakland. Amazing crust texture (thin, pliant, slight crunch), balanced tomato sauce… yes.

apizza scholls

The Robot Ate 2013

31 Dec

A few most memorable 2013 food moments. It’s partly about the food, partly about the company– pretty much all of these involved a small group of good friends.

(blah blah blah, year in review, blah blah blah)

(lucky at) Daiwa Sushi, Tsukiji Market, Tokyo

27 Nov

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The morning of my flight home from Tokyo, I headed to Tsukiji market to find some delicious raw fish. Quick phone research on the train suggested Daiwa was very well regarded and known for their toro (fatty tuna), so I had a plan.

Arriving, I saw a line into the street that folded back and forth on itself 8 times. 8. Looking back at the phone, my eyes caught the “only 11 seats at a counter… the wait can be two to three hours” bit I’d skimmed past. With a flight leaving in 5 hours, waiting, eating, and an hour or two on trains back to the hotel and then airport would be cutting it very close… and what if the wait were longer and I had to leave the line, hungry, at the last moment?

A minute into this indecision, and probably only two after I’d arrived, the host poked his head out the door and said “we have one spot. anyone here alone?” The entire line of couples and groups looked down at their feet. I paused a beat, looked around, and slowly raised my hand… and before I knew it he was parting the crowd and whisking me inside, past stares and a few murmurs.

Sometimes that just happens.

The chef brusquely said “omakase”, and proceeded to slap down one piece of sushi at a time every few minutes for the next half hour. I snapped a few photos but otherwise focused on trying to make each bite of very good, fresh fish last as long as I could.

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The highlights:

Falling-apart-like-brisket toro (photo at the very top).

The best uni I’ve ever had (by a wide margin)– like a sweet ocean pudding, no brine at all.

A warm fried shrimp head.

The chu-toro — what might have been a cut from inside to outside of the fish, varying from deep red to marbled fatty pink along its length.

As well as ebi (sweet shrimp), tamago, hamachi, a maguro roll, ika (squid), hirame, tai, hotate, and anago (salt-water eel, vs. the more common fresh-water unagi).

I didn’t even touch the soy sauce– each piece had a dot of wasabi under the fish and occasionally a light brushing of some sauce, and didn’t need anything else.

Definitely in my top 5 sushi experiences, and with no wait in line and a modest price ($35 plus a few extras?) hard to beat.

Yakitori Alley, Yurakucho, Tokyo

22 Nov

I was in Japan recently. I didn’t go in with a food plan or have much time to explore, but still had some great, mostly-cheap eats.

One highlight was near Yurakucho Station in Tokyo: “One of Yurakucho’s most interesting draws is the lively restaurant district built up under the brick arches beneath the elevated train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line. Known in Japanese as Gado-shita, from “below the girder”, these favored watering holes of Tokyo businessmen occupy virtually all of the free space under nearly 700 meters of track.”

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Didn’t eat here:

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But instead ended up at the most populated-with-locals, boisterous yakitori joint (I figure that’s always a good sign), in a brick-lined alley underneath the tracks themselves, with waves of fragrant meat smoke billowing out. I didn’t see a name, but from a stranger’s blog that shows the same menu it looks like it was Tonton.

Yurakucko Yakitori

We ordered round after round of chicken thigh, leeks, shishito peppers, tsukune (chicken meatballs), pork, pig hearts, chicken skin, even tongue, and all for only $25/person ($14/person not counting the beer).

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