Monthly Archives: July 2010

pork spring rolls

spring roll feast

Danny and I feel blessed these days. Blessed, I tell you.

For the past few days, our friends Diane Cu and Todd Porter (who write a website called White on Rice Couple) have been staying with us. They're here not just because they are friends — a simple visit would still feel like joy to us — but also because they are here to film us.

Yep. They're filming us.

Diane and Todd are some of the most talented people we've ever met. They take beautiful photographs, lead Vietnamese culinary tours of Orange County, make enticing pastries, grow a magnificent garden, and adore each other. (Of all their many talents, that's probably their most important one.) We were a little in awe of them before we met them last year, at the BlogHer Food convention. They gave a practical, insightful talk about learning the camera and how to take better photographs with it. (The photographs you see on this site are in some part due to that talk.) A couple of months later, we had the chance to hang out with them at the Kingsford University experience. That's where we became their friends, instead of these fellow bloggers who were a little in awe of them.

We're really blessed. We adore these two.

It's not just because they're so talented. (Check this out if you want to see some of their qualifications.) We adore Diane and Todd because they are mensches. (Don't know what a mensch is? You should. Look at this.)

These two give of their time and expertise freely. They laugh and expect the best of life. They are kind-hearted and brutally funny. They work together like oil and vinegar, emulsified.

They also really like pork. That's another reason we're friends.

So, for the last two days, Diane and Todd have been staying with us, waking up early as the kid, and jumping into the day. They are here to film a promo trailer for our cookbook. (We'll share it here when it's ready.) We have been cooking and laughing, following our toddler daughter around the garden, and then doing it again, in multiple takes.

We can't wait to see this movie.

Yesterday, we wrapped filming. Big hugs all around and celebration. We only had 30 minutes before Danny had to leave for work and when we were going to take Lu to her afternoon pre-school. Lunch?

Diane and Todd moved like a warm wind into the kitchen and shooed us away. They pulled out pans, grated ginger, bashed lemongrass, diced up vegetables, and moved through that space like the experts they are.

They were making us a spring roll feast.

pork for the spring rolls

We all sat at the table outside on the porch, under the trees gently swaying in the breeze. We dug in. Diane showed us how to massage the spring roll wrappers under the water until they were pliable. Todd showed us how to pile the cilantro and mint, the basil and sprouts onto the bottom third of the wrapper. Lettuce. Peas. Cucumber. Whatever we wanted. On top, before we moved our fingers (not as nimbly as Diane and Todd) up the wrapper until it was tight, we piled pieces of this seared pork, marinated in ginger and garlic. After a moment of waiting, we took our first bites.

Heaven.

Diane explained that in Vietnam people take whatever is leftover from the day, whatever was available at the market, and roll it up into spring rolls. Since the rolls are mostly filled full of vegetables and herbs, these are wonderfully health. Having a spring roll party like this was communal eating, hands reaching, bumping, grabbing for more, the conversation rolling over each other's hands and laughter. Our favorite joy.

I wish I could tell you more about what Diane and Todd did to that pork to make it so delicious. We weren't in the kitchen. They asked us to simply enjoy.

(Michael Ruhlman wrote a moving post about visiting Diane and Todd in their garden in California, where they enjoyed a similar spring roll feast.)

Enjoy we did. Both the company and the food. Give me a spring roll with that marinated pork, handed to me by Diane and Todd, and I'm happy.

Like I said, we're blessed.

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bacon, brown rice, and beans

a little lunch

It doesn't take much to make big taste.

Some people like to decry bacon as much as some of us love it. You'll see these photos of glistening slices in big piles on a plate, insinuating that's how most Americans eat.

Danny and I love our pork, but we're not really big fans of the Bacon Explosion. I can certainly see why that became such a fad. However, for most days' eating, that's not where we're going.

We love bacon as a flavoring, a condiment, a small touch in a plate full of other good foods. The fat released into the pan lends its brilliant taste to the brown rice, the green beans, the English peas. This is, in truth, a very French technique.

Try it at home.

Bacon, Brown Rice, and Beans (plus peas)

2 slices good, smoky bacon
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 cups shelled English peas
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups cooked brown rice

Cut the bacon into 1-inch slices. Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour the canola oil into the pan. When the oil is hot, add the bacon slices. (The canola helps to coax the bacon fat out and start the process more quickly.) When the bacon has crisped and the fat has been rendered, remove the bacon and set aside.

Toss the English peas and green beans into the bacon fat. Cook, stirring, until they are both hot. Toss in the brown rice and cook until it is hot. Add the bacon slices and serve.

Serves 4

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carnitas at El Puerco Lloron

carnitas from El Puerco Lloron

I don't get into the city by myself very often. There is laundry to do, a kid to tickle, a bedtime that must be kept to or a sleepless night ensues, and always more work to do. Time in the city by myself seems like a faint memory at times.

On Tuesday, however, I found myself near Pike Place Market, looking up at a warm blue sky, wondering what to eat.

My friend Molly and I were about to teach a writing class at Cornish College of the Arts, as part of their Food as Art summer seminar. I love Molly and talking about writing and meeting new people, so I was jazzed.

However, the class began at 5:30 and lasted until 8:30. As I stood on Western Avenue, in front of World Spice, it was 4:30 pm. I had one hour to eat, reach the school, look over the readings one more time, and see if I had anything to say.

It had to be good food. And it had to be fast.

Luckily, El Puerco Lloron is just down a set of stairs from World Spice. I ran.

If you've never been to El Puerco Lloron, you should start running too. This Mexican cantina-style restaurant has been making carnitas and homemade corn tortillas on the spot for over 20 years now. The room is light and the window overlooks Elliott Bay and the ships coming in. The entire place is filled with colorful, slightly cheesy decorations.  Yes, the green, white, and red pinatas might seem tacky, but the food never is. Everything tastes authentic. Especially the carnitas.

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The pull-apart pork is tender to the fork, with a bit of crisp fat and mostly meat ready to be shredded and savored. It's seasoned well — not too much heat but not at all bland. It's warm and comforting and always, always good.

One carnitas to go, please.

I hate eating in my car. I really do. I hate the rush, the spilling of rice and sauce on my shirt, the way I'll find bits of food on the floor later that week when I vacuum the car. I can't stretch out my legs. I find it impossible to sit back and slow down. (Of course, I don't drive and eat. I'm talking about parked eating. The people who eat while driving astound me even more.)

These carnitas, however? I savored them. I parked near a green space on Denny and turned on some music, loud. I was alone in the city, going somewhere fun, without a kid in the back seat. I dug in.

El Puerco Lloron

1501 Western Ave

Seattle, WA 98101

(206) 624-0541

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pig cooking lid

pig-cooking-lid

photo courtesy of MoMA store

This is the lid for a cooking pot.

According to the MoMA store:

“Made of soft silicone with a pig face in the center, this multipurpose lid can be placed directly over ingredients in a pot to help them cook evenly, releasing steam through the pig's snout.”

Oh, you know you want one.

We sure do.

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White on Rice Couple go to Momofuku

momfuku-5

photo courtesy of Diane Cu and Todd Porter

Can you tell what those dishes are? The one on the left is sweet and sour crispy pig ears. The one on the right is a pig's head terrine.

Wow.

Where can you find such incredible dishes as this? At David Chang's restaurant, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, in New York.

Who took these glorious photographs of this food set before them? That would be Diane Cu and Todd Porter, also known as White on Rice Couple.

These two incredible people (we're biased; they're friends of ours) went to New York for film work recently. While there, they ate with Jaden of Steamy Kitchen at Momofuku.

We have no problem admitting that we are jealous. You will be too when you read this post.

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pigs and pinot

“We've never eaten as much swine in an eighteen-hour period as we did in Healdsburg this past weekend, beginning with the Taste of Pigs & Pinot event on Friday night hosted by Charlie Palmer and the Hotel Healdsburg, and ending with the sandwich order that they got wrong at the Dry Creek General Store on Saturday afternoon, when all we wanted was some tuna to cleanse our palates but we ended up with more soppressatta. So. Much. Pork.”

You might think I wrote those sentences. Or Danny. But it wasn't us, sadly. This was written by Jay Barmann for Grub Street San Francisco, after participating in the Taste of Pigs and Pinot event in Healdsburg.

Some of you may remember that Danny and I (along with our daughter) were lucky enough to stay at the Hotel Healdsburg last November, as part of the Kingsford University trip. At the time, we had just watched Top Chef, which featured contestants competing as part of  the Taste of Pigs and Pinot, an event orchestrated by Charlie Palmer every year, with proceeds going to Share Our Strength and educational opportunities in the local Healdsburg area. We wanted to be there this year.

Time passed. Life grew crazy busy again. And it wasn't until someone forwarded me this piece that I realized that Pigs and Pinot had already happened. In March.

However, that doesn't prevent us from drooling over all the descriptions of pork dishes available there:

“Chef Voltaggio made a visually stunning pork loin with mash potatoes and draped with a “veil” of red pepper gelatin.”

“Kevin's Gillespie's first dish, which ultimately won him the tournament, was a duo of wood-fired pork loin and pork belly over roasted baby carrots and cabbage and creamed farro.”

“Tyler Florence explains one of his two dishes, called 'The Relationship,' while his culinary director Jason Rose plates. The dish consisted of braised pork shoulder over curds, celebrating the relationship between dairy farmers and pig farmers.”

“Chef Philippe Rispolli of Supreme Cuisine produced a perfect bite of pig with this slightly crunchy, 24-hour-roasted chunk of pork belly topped with mustardy mashed potatoes and cheese.”

ARGH. I wish we hadn't missed this.

If you click on this link, you can read all about it, and watch the slideshow. Maybe we'll make it next year. Maybe you will. Tell us all about it if you have been or plan to go.

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old spice guy and bacon

bacon from A&J's

By now you must have heard of the Old Spice guy, right?

You haven't? Well, don't worry. I hadn't heard of him before two days ago. My brother, who seems to live on the internet and find everything cool before me, directed me to the You Tube channel for the Old Spice guy.

And then I laughed for about 20 minutes.

The original commercials are hilarious. But what is really quite unbelievable is the sheer number of films recorded as answers to questions from Twitter and Facebook. For days we all hung around the internet, waiting for the next one to arise. And then, today, the Old Spice guy announced his retirement from making internet history with a bunch of medals around his chest.

It's a brilliant marketing ploy. I know that. At first I was a little reluctant to share how much this campaign makes me laugh because it means I'm falling for the advertising.

(However, I'm still not likely to buy Old Spice for Danny, since I associate it with the 1970s and the soap on a rope I bought for my dad because it was the fanciest-looking present I could buy for Christmas when I had so little money leftover from my allowance.)

Then, I saw this: the Old Spice guy talking about what a tragedy it would be if we had no more bacon.

You don't know the Old Spice guy? You should.

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breakfast at Le Pichet

eggs with ham and gruyere

My friend Sharon and I got ourselves out of the house early enough to be on the 7:55 am ferry to Seattle. If you know me and Sharon, this was roughly a miracle.

Sharon generally takes an  hour in the bathroom, getting ready. She emerges looking like a famous actress ready for her first scene of the day. My hair is a tousled mess, I've forgotten to put on makeup at all, and I may not even have washed my face. But the kid is fed and hugged and read to and tickled, many times, before I run to the bedroom to throw on some jeans and put on a shirt. We're out the door.

Sharon and I were having some girl time in the city.

Since Sharon and I have known each other for 28 years, it doesn't really matter where we are. Together, we feel comfortable. On the couch, with my daughter bouncing on her feet before us, we talk. We could have spent an entire vacation together without leaving the house.

However, we needed some time alone. Danny happily watched Lu for the morning and early afternoon and Sharon and I headed into the city.

We drove straight to Le Pichet for breakfast.

This little French bistro on 1st Avenue, just down from Pike Place Market, is one of Danny's and my favorites. Before the kid, we'd go down there for big cups of coffee and eggs with ham and gruyere and the chance to stare into each other's eyes. Now, we do go out to restaurants with our daughter, and she's well-behaved since she has been in so many, but it's not the same. Sharon hears me talk about restaurant experiences and saves them all up for our time together.

Le Pichet was her choice. What a great choice it was.

I love this breakfast, the ham lining the baking dish, gruyere underneath the eggs cooked easy, dashed with pepper. Sharon loved it too.

charcuterie plate at Le Pichet

Since it was a special occasion, we also splurged and bought a small charcuterie plate to share. This is (from the bottom, going clockwise): saucisson sec, saucisse Lyonnnaise, and Serrano ham from Spain. (And some cornichons.)

They were all lovely. The saucisson sec was a little oily, so there was no doubting what we were eating. I loved the pistachios in the Lyonnaise (pistachios and pork are a great pairing). And Serrano ham is always good.

Sharon laughed at how much pork we had eaten for breakfast. Since we knew we were having leftover pork roast for dinner, she suggested we find something for lunch that involved pork too. “We could make it an all-pork day!”

Well, why not?

So we did.

le pichet

Le Pichet

1933 1st Avenue

Seattle, Washington 98101

(206) 256-1499

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pork roast with rosemary and mustard

roast pork

My dear friend Sharon, whom I have known well for the past 28 years, came to visit us yesterday. She'll be here all week, and she already has the entire week's worth of food planned for us.

This is typical. Sharon has always loved food, as have I. Together, we have eaten across this country, in dives and fine-dining restaurants alike. I can't even begin to count how many meals we have shared or how many of those meals contained pork. There was a breakfast with bacon in a diner in Wyoming that listed all the different kinds of meats available in big letters at the top of the menu, with eggs and other sides in small letters below. There were pepperoni curled at the edges on our slices of pizza at Sal and Carmine's, which we'd hit on the way back from the 103rd subway stop before going home across the street. There was pancetta cooked with green beans in some fancy restaurant in Los Angeles — the name I don't remember — where we splurged on our meager budgets and sat lingering at the table for hours into the evening, feeling rich until our bill came.

It's no surprise, to me, therefore that she said on the phone before she arrived: “For my first night there, can we have some kind of yummy pork?”

Well, of course.

The joy of this particular pork roast is that we shared it with our dear friends Tita, who lives on the island where we live, and Meri, who was visiting from New York. The four of us had not been in the same room together since my wedding, three years ago. With our daughter, Lu, bopping around the edges, eager to sit on everyone's laps, this was a mighty estrogen fest.

Danny was at work. That meant I cooked this one on my own, with no help from him or consulting a book.

Everyone there was mighty happy at dinner that night.

Mustard-Rosemary Pork Roast

5 pounds pork loin

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put a large roasting pan in the oven.

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper on all sides.

Mix the mustard, rosemary, and worcestershire sauce together in a bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry brush (depending on your squeasmishness), smear the mustard mixture all over the pork loin.

Put the pork loin, fat side down, in the roasting pan. It's going to smoke a bit and make some noise. Don't worry. Close the oven door.

Sear the pork loin at this high heat for 10 minutes. Turn down the oven to 400 degrees. Cook for another 20 minutes. Take the roast out of the oven and flip over the loin. Slide back into the oven and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature on a meat thermometer reads 150 degrees.

Take the roast out of the oven and let it rest  until the temperature rises to 160 degrees. Slice into thick pieces and serve. (We had a golden raisin sauce with this pork, along with a roasted vegetable pasta salad.)

Feeds 10.

(You're going to have leftovers, unless you are feeding a family of 10. We used the leftover pork roast in frittatas, on pizza, and in pork tacos we served with cilantro sauce and grilled jicama. One 5-pound pork roast made 4 meals.)

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prosciutto and melon

prosciutto and melon

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I told you a few days ago that summer doesn't start in Seattle until after the 4th of July.

Well, here it is.

Today's high is reputed to be 92°. It might break a record.

Last week this time, the high was 56°.

I'm not complaining. We need some sun on our skin (people in Seattle are notoriously low on vitamin D, me included) and some warm air blowing through the rooms of this house. The temperatures will drop again. But for now? We're enjoying the rush of hot air around our heads, the chance to move slowly, all the windows open and nowhere to go.

Mostly, when the weather is this hot, we don't want to eat much. Just dangle a few thin slices of prosciutto above wedges of cold melon and there's lunch.

We suggest you do the same.

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