Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three-Ingredient Sauce for Steak and Other Delicious Things

Oh, the end of May! I love it so much. It's like the Thursday night of the whole school year, is how I feel. You're not done yet, but you start to enjoy anticipating being done so profoundly that this moment might be even better than the later doneness itself because the whole summer is still to come, dawning in front of us like a golden orb of promise and lazy mornings and NO SCHOOL LUNCHES TO MAKE and camping and popsicles and oooooh, I can't wait.
The obligatory May cigar-vase photo. Didn't I just post one, like, yesterday? When the children were still small and peachy?
We spent Memorial Day with lots of our closest friends, and I am in such a strange state, such a vibrant wabi-sabi mix of excitement and melancholy (What? Me? I know!), that I spent the whole day accusing passing hordes of children of growing up too fast. Luckily, I was not alone in this project. All my friends feel the same way. "Look at him!" we cry. "Look at her!" about each other's long, lanky, hirsute, broad, pimply, gorgeous, mustachioed, breathtaking, bosomy children, even though it's only been, like, two days since we were all together. I cannot take it. I can't. And we've been to three funerals in three months, and that's only the half of it, and every time the wind blows, the dogwood blossoms snowfall to the ground, even though I have waited all year for that tree to bloom. Even though that tree bloomed just a second ago, and a second before that, and it will bloom again in the wink of an eye, the children all another foot taller. What?

What does this have to do with Three-Ingredient Sauce for Steak? Oh, nothing, I guess. Except that steak feels like such a harbinger of summer. Even though I cooked it in a pan, because it was raining and it breaks my heart too much to watch Michael at the grill with an umbrella. 

These are marvelous, wonderful skirt steaks. Oh, they are so, so good. I heat the pan on nearly high heat for TEN MINUTES before salting the bottom heavily with coarse salt and then adding the steaks. TEN MINUTES. This pan. The love of my life.

Did I mention salt?
But the sauce? I can't describe why it's so good. In the Venn diagram, it would almost entirely overlap with the wasabi-kicked soy sauce you'd dip your sushi in. 
I picked the only easy recipe in the book.
The mustard--and you really do have to use that fancy Colman's in a yellow tin--makes it crazy, nose-clearingly hot. Not spicy. Hot in the sinus way. And then the soy is there, mellow and salty and rich. And then the rice vinegar comes in all bright and floral. It makes steak sing. And the song it's singing is, "I am so fucking delicious, you are going to die!"

We are 3. Yes. 3.
The sauce is also excellent on plain brown rice, on edamame, and on fish, which is what it was invented for. Where I first had it, in fact, was at a restaurant called Roy's that my parents took Michael and me to in Hawaii, oh, 6 or 7 thousand years ago. And what I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life: Blackened Ahi with Soy Mustard Sauce and Beurre Blanc. I can hardly write about it still. It made me feel like I'd never actually eaten anything before that tasted good, and like I might never again afterwards. I'm sure it sounds very 1993 now, but wow. I talked about that meal every hour, every day, for years, to the point where my thoughtful brother finally got me the Roy's cookbook, to try to assuage my longing. And guess what I've made from the cookbook? This single 3-ingredient sauce. Not the whole plate of food, with the fancy tuna. Not any of the other recipes, with the slivered papaya or the flying fish roe or whatever. Just this one thing. And it was completely worth it.

What about me? Nobody even mentioned salt!
Three-Ingredient Steak Sauce
aka Roy’s Soy-Mustard Sauce

Okay, there are four ingredients, but are you really going to count water?

1/4 cup mustard powder, preferably Colman’s
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons [unseasoned] rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Mix the mustard powder and hot water together in a cup [or small bowl] to form a paste. Let sit for a few minutes “to allow the flavor and heat to develop.” [Wah? I do it anyway.] Add the vinegar and soy sauce, mix together, and “pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.” [I skip the sieve, but I do use a whisk.] Cover and “refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop.” [I tend forget this whole 1-hour part, but oh well.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chewy Chocolate-Almond Cookies

Hm. This looks like a grainy oatmeal-raisin cookie, and, honestly, that couldn't be further from the genre here. These are sticky-chewy-chocolatey, and grain-free, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Not that I don't love a good, grainy oatmeal-raisin cookie.
I made these cookies because my friend Nicole brought them over, and they were so insanely crispy and chewy and teeth-stickingly marvelous that I hunted down the recipe from her Pinterest board. Now, oddly, Nicole’s cookies were pale beige and smooth. Mine came out dark brown and nubbly.

Perhaps it was because she didn’t use coconut sugar? Because we used different types of almond butter? No matter, though, as both versions are simply amazing.

Obligatory stacked-cookie shot. Again with the whole-wheat appearance. Trust me, okay?
One disclosure: even though I got all the big-ticket ingredients at Trader Joe’s, these are not inexpensive cookies to make. 

Nonetheless, they have a great deal of food value—protein, healthy fats, phytochemicals—so I think of them as a good investment and a perfect lunch-box cookie. Plus, did I mention how amazing they are?


Chewy Chocolate-Almond Cookies
This recipe is adapted from the Slim Palate. I did not sprinkle these with flakey salt, like she recommends, and I’m not sure why. (Okay, it’s because I tasted the raw dough, and it seemed like it was already perfectly salted—which it was!) If you’ve made these peanut butter cookies before, the dough is a lot like that—oily and weird, but the cookies bake up beautifully. These are low-glycemic and gluten-free. And Paleolithic. Because nobody was as healthy as those early hominids, what with their ripe old average lifespan of 33.

1 cup creamy almond butter
¾ cup coconut sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (more if your almond butter is unsalted)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract (This is my addition. I like the little bit of green-almond flavor to balance the roastedness of the nut butter.)
4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped, or chocolate chips or chunks (I used ¾ cup Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks)

Heat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used Silpats.)

Use a wooden spoon to beat the almond butter and coconut sugar together in a medium bowl, then beat in the baking soda and salt. Use a fork to beat together the egg, egg yolk, and extracts together in a small bowl or mug, then add the egg mixture to the almond-butter mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate. (The dough will seem weird—pasty and oily—and that’s fine.)

Use a cookie scoop to measure out rounded blobs and space them well apart on the cookies sheets.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until just set and browning around the edges. (I’d say “don’t overbake them,” but, then, I’ll bet you weren’t planning to overbake them.) Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A few books, a game, ribs, an appearance, some begging, etc.

I thought she'd never ask.
Um, did I mention how I'm going to be at this event in Concord, MA tomorrow evening, with the fantabulous Suzy Becker and Nancy Aronie? I did? Oh. Okay. If you want to come, you'll come, I'm guessing. WINE AND CHEESE. Just saying.

via NPR
Meanwhile, I have been on a tremendous and wonderful reading jag. This book. And this book. And this book. And this book. So, so, so good. All of them. Dept. of Speculation was so insanely brilliantly heartbreakingly stunning that I actually read it again right after I finished it. And the Roz Chast. I mean, my God. I think I pre-ordered it in 1987, and it was totally worth the wait. The Curtis Sittenfeld novel is about psychic twin sisters, but along the way there is some of the best and funniest writing about parenting I've read (including the fact that the two-year-old's lovey is a wooden puzzle piece of baloney). And Michael Cunningham's book reminded me a little of his A Home at the End of the World, which is one of my all-time-favorite reads. You won't be disappointed with any of them. (Unless you are, and then I'm sorry!)

There's one other weird book I want to recommend, especially if you have a stop-motion animation fanatic in your life for whom you need to buy a present, and it's The Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox. I'll tell you: the book kind of demystifies why that movie is so good, and it's all in the details. There's even a page that shows all the little swatches for Mr. Fox's ascot fabric. I mean, seriously. We get it out of the library and simply love studying all the sets and props and costumes. It helps the kids understand that stop-motion is an agonizing, snail's-pace labor of love, even for the professionals.

I also have a new board game to recommend! My brother sent it to us, and it's FANTASTIC. Plus, it plays like a long game, but only really takes half an hour or so. 7 Wonders. It's kind of like a cross between Stone Age and San Juan and Dominion. How's that for Dorksville comparisons to other games you've never heard of? Sorry. But it's engagingly strategic without being nail-bitingly stressful, which can be a nice change of pace to, say, the merrily unbearable Agricola. (Plus, we had the excitement of receiving a misprinted card! And getting a new one sent to us in the mail!!! Never a dull etc.)

That's it. Except for my crazy, crazy, crazy good ribs recipe, which was in Relish magazine. Forgive the absence of humbleness. They're too good.

More soon. I hope you are well and LILACS enjoying DOGWOOD the VIOLETS spring.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Miso-Sriracha Deviled Eggs (to die for)

I remember years and years ago—actually it was almost ten years ago, kill me—when Ben was jumping on a bed with his friends Ava and Zaim, but he was afraid to jump off the bed like they were doing. And the kids coached and cajoled, encouraged and praised courage, until Ben triumphed. I remember thinking at the time that it was such an amazing metaphor for friendship, even as it was actually just friendship in action, and not a metaphor at all. Love each other up into the air. Right?

I keep trying to pitch a piece about friendship. The gist of the piece I want to write is this: that our job as a friend is to say a million times, in a million different ways, “You’re perfect” or “You’re okay” or even “I know, but I like that about you.” For some reason, there are no editors interested in that piece. Is it too obvious? I feel like it should be, but I’m not so sure.

I’m thinking of this today, because last night we attended the reading event of Birdy’s little writing group, and if ever I have witnessed perfect community in miniature, this was it. The kids read their stories, their crazy, amazing, brilliantly out-there stories, full of candy-bearing reptiles and dead mothers and creepy mothers and cheese and friendship and bad mothers. And when they weren’t reading, they listened and praised, they lovingly introduced each other, and they laughed loudly at the funny parts, and they testified. Oh, I love this story! and This is the scary part. and Yay you! I am not cynical. But if I were, boy would that have been the perfect antidote. Love each other up into the air.

Of course, then I had to wipe my sentimental eyes and get down to the serious, narcissistic business of finding someone to photograph the dish I’d brought to the post-reading potluck. Luckily, my talented and enthusiastic friend Chris obliged, turning his lens from the thronged group of happy young writers to the plate of boiled eggs, like I asked him to. (These are amazing, they're beautiful, he said, like a pornographer, and then tasted one and made me feel like a miracle worker for having made them. Love each other up into the air.)

photo courtesy of Chris Perry

Thank you, Chris.

photo courtesy of Chris Perry
Sriracha again! And miso! And mayonnaise. Please bear with me through my latest round of flavor obsessions. I’m sure it won’t be long. These are, simply, insane: creamy, dreamy, spicy, rich umami bombs. I know you might not have pickled beans sitting around, but if you do, sliver them up for topping, along with your garden’s first chives.

Miso-Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Makes 24 deviled eggs (i.e. not enough)

I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, but tinkered with the seasoning. Deviled eggs are so, so good and nearly unruinable that you should feel free to substitute away, omitting ingredients you don’t like (sriracha) or don't have (miso) and swapping in ones you do (wasabi, say, or soy sauce). The thing is? At bottom, you could use just the mayo, vinegar, and a little extra salt, and they would still be good. But these? These are sublime. (Note: The weird amounts represent me trying to account for the way I end up adding a little more of this or that after I first measure out the amounts.)

12 extra-large eggs
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white miso
1-2 teaspoons sriracha
2 teaspoons white vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Slivered pickled beans and/or chives for garnish

Put the eggs in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat off, cover the pot, and leave the eggs for 10 minutes. Drain them, then run cold water over them, adding a tray of ice if you like, until they are cold. Peel them, laying them on paper towels as you go. (If they don't peel well? It's likely that they're too fresh. Consider the freshness a silver lining to the dinged-up eggs.)

Slice the eggs in half, wiping the knife as you go if you want the whites to stay white (I would not bother for my plain old family, but bothered for An Event). Pop the yolks out into the bowl of a food processor, add the mayo, miso, sriracha, vinegar, and salt, and process until very smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Taste the filling. It should be just a little bit too salty and flavorful, because you need it to season the plain old whites. Re-season accordingly. You can also just mash up the yolks and seasonings with a fork, which is what I would typically do. Again: Event.)

Scrape the filling into a small Ziploc bag, seal it, and snip off one corner. Squeeze the bag to fill each white half with the yolk mixture. (Alternately, you can spoon the filling in--but I swear the bag is easier.) Top with garnishes and serve, ideally without needing to refrigerate the eggs first—but, obviously, refrigerating them if you need to.