Melting Pot #7

mmmmmm...sloppy!!

mmmmmm…sloppy!!

 

Sloppy Joes!!

This is one of those ultimate All American type meals. When I am feeling lazy and don’t want to work hard this is one of my go to things to make. Don’t use those instant packets at the store, there is just a mountain of salt in there.

You will need:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 large tomato chopped up, 1 tennis ball size onion chopped up, BBQ sauce, ketchup, spicy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper and white wine.

After everything is chopped and ready, throw the beef into a sauce pan. Get it browning and add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir in the onions and get them nice and translucent. Add garlic powder, maybe a teaspoon, perhaps more or less, depending on your preference. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to a low simmer. As the liquid has reduced put in 1/4 cup ketchup, tablespoon of spicy mustard (I use Chinese mustard), 1/8 cup of BBQ sauce (something with a smoky flavor) and a couple of splashes of the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir everything well, add 1/8 cup of wine. Simmer until liquid is reduced.

Serve on a hamburger bun, I like whole wheat. This goes great with coleslaw, either on the side or some people like the slaw on the bun. Also some ridged potato chips.

This will serve four of five people. To do more just up the amounts. You can add more BBQ or spicy mustard to taste. Hot sauce might be nice but the whole hot sauce thing is a bit played out.

Enjoy!!

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Melting Pot #5

My Wok

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

I had been living in San Francisco for a couple of years and I had finally decided to get a wok. It was 1983, I was doing a lot of artistic metal work, playing music and generally just having fun. I realized it was time to settle down and start behaving like an adult. To me that meant cooking utensils.

I lived a few blocks from Macy’s on Union Square and had gone to the Cellar to check out their kitchen stuff. A lot of their basics cost more than I made in a week so that was out of the question. I remembered my Mother’s pots and pans: All old, dented and still useful. So I decided to look for more practical pieces that wouldn’t break the bank. Since I was (and still am) a bit of a germaphobe I couldn’t bring myself to buy used stuff at Goodwill. So I took the 38 Geary down and then hopped on the 30 Stockton to Chinatown.

In Chinatown there are the touristy places, where you can buy kung fu shoes, kimonos, dolls and other trinkets. But if you explore the side streets a little there are stores that sell the things that people really use in everyday life: Clothes, Furniture, Food (including back then live chickens, fish and turtles) and household items. I wandered around until I located a place selling kitchen items. The old lady behind the counter just gave a slightly annoyed look, I was probably one of those dumb tourists who took a wrong turn…

I picked up a plastic shopping basket and started browsing. I found a cleaver, some cooking chopsticks, a strainer and a nice spatula. A spatula for wok cooking is a little different. It has a slight curve to the front to match the side of the wok and the edges and back are raised slightly to help scooping things out. At the back of the store the woks were stacked up, face down with craft paper between each one. There were many different sizes and shapes some with round bottoms and some with flat. I chose one with a flat bottom and a nice wood handle. I liked it because you could see it was spun out of a single sheet of metal, the ridges from the spinning were still visible. After I had paid for everything and was on my way out, the lady said: ‘Enjoy your friend.’

It was a strange thing to say, but she was right. I have become friends with my wok, it always stands by, waiting patiently to be used in the creation of something delicious. When the wok was new the color was light grey and metallic. Over years the wok is now fully carbon black. The outside is nicely crusted with 30 plus years of burnt stuff. The inside is smooth and black, a natural non-stick surface.  I use the wok not only for cooking meals, but also to heat up left overs, it is my main cooking utensil and my microwave.

I protect my friend too. When I came home and a roommate had used my wok to cook tomato sauce, and had taken the patina off the inside from the acidity I kicked him out. When I got divorced, the wok was the only kitchen item I kept. The wok is 12 years older than my daughter. When I die it will be the one thing that I leave her that I KNOW she will truly value. My wok cost just $25 in 1983, it is priceless today. All the other items I bought that day have been lost or have worn out and been sent to the recycler. My wok is still there.

Today there is Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Martha and all the rest selling their stuff on QVC for hundreds of dollars. All supposed to be unique but all made in the same factory in China, they are stamped out, sprayed with non-stick chemicals and then divided into separate lines to receive the proper chefs logo and marketing materials. My wok was made by hand, in some small shop, by a person who had been making woks one at a time for years. They learned their craft from another person, who had learned from someone before them. Now I cook, teach my daughter and know that she will share the wok with her children and grandchildren. Not as glamorous as a TV chef, but real. Go out and find your own friend and start a tradition that can last another 100 years.

Melting Pot #4

Saba Shioyaki

This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It is essentially a grilled mackerel, but the preparation is something that is pretty straight forward and you end up with an elegant and delicious dish. It is normally cooked on a charcoal grill, but you can make this in a broiler.

To make the dish you will need:

  • A nice mackerel fillet, skin on. About 8 ounces per serving is perfect.
  • Daikon radish
  • Soy sauce
  • Japanese short grain rice

Start by preparing the rice. Gently wash the rice in cold water to remove excess starch and talc. You might have to rinse the rice 8 to 10 times, but keep going until the water is clear. Drain the rice and let it rest for about 10 minutes or so. Put the rice in your cooker or start a pot on the stove.

Shred your daikon into thin long strips, like vermicelli. I like to put it in a bowl with some cold water and salt in the refrigerator. You can do this a day ahead if you like.

The saba should be sliced through the skin side, just barely through to allow for soy sauce penetration.

Put your oven on broil. Set up a cookie sheet with tin foil. Lay the fish on the sheet skin side up. Drizzle on the soy sauce, massage it gently into the fish. Place the sheet under the broiler and let it go for about 2 minutes. Remove the sheet and turn the fish over. Drizzle again lightly with soy and put back in the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the broiler and allow to rest.

Serve with a small mound of shredded daikon.  The rice is served in a bowl next to the fish. To eat just put a little soy on the daikon and mix with the fish.

You can also cook salmon this way, sea bass can work well too. Enjoy!

I got a note asking for pictures of stuff I am making so I will start doing that. I am not a great photographer but it will get the idea across.

The Melting Pot

Thai Food

When I first moved to San Francisco and was young and poor (now I am old and poor…) I used to eat pretty much every day at a little Thai restaurant called the Racha Cafe. I could get a plate of Spicy Basil Chicken with steamed rice for about $5.00. That was usually my big meal for the day.

There are lots of great flavors from Thailand. Curries, fish dishes, noodles…all delicious. So check it out: IT IS EASY TO CREATE GREAT THAI FOOD AT HOME!! All you need is a collection of the right flavors.

When you want to cook in a Thai style there are a few items to add to your pantry. First, a good fish sauce; I like Tiparos but there are plenty of good brands. Then get some Sri Racha or as we call it Racha sauce. You will also want fresh ginger, lemon grass (you can get ground up Lemon Grass in a jar or tube if fresh isn’t available), garlic and soy sauce. Another regularly used item is basil. Thai basil is best but if you can’t get that use regular basil and some fresh mint leaves too. I keep jalapenos in the fridge pickled in cane vinegar, just wash in hot water and slice before dropping them in.

THAI BASIL CHICKEN

My daughter’s favorite, easy to make and delicious.

Get boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut them into little cubes. Figure two thighs per person, but add a few for leftovers (you will want some for lunch). Brown the chicken in oil, I use canola but anything but olive oil will do. You may have to cook the chicken in shifts…

After the chicken is lightly browned, add some soy sauce and fish sauce. Figure about 4 to 1 soy vs fish sauce. I use around four tablespoons or so of liquid per 6 thighs but you will have to adjust to your own taste. BE CAREFULL WITH THE FISH SAUCE…the flavor will multiply as the liquid reduces. Stir in about 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger and ground lemon grass. You can put in a little garlic but it is not needed. I like my chicken a little more spicy so I will stir in a little Racha sauce to give a small bite.

At the end throw in your pickled jalapenos to taste and then one bunch of basil. Let the basil wilt and toss it in. Remove from the heat and serve over jasmine rice.

You can do this same basic recipe with beef, seafood or veggies. Just try using the these spices to add to your cooking bag of tricks.