I’ve Figured Out How to Eat Liver

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I don’t like the taste of beef or lamb liver.  I can tolerate, but don’t enjoy eating beef or lamb heart.  I can force myself to eat offal knowing that it’s good for me, but it takes up almost all of my willpower, and it becomes a rare event.

Being a lurker in the real food nutrition, paleo, and fitness communities, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get organ meats into my diet consistently.  It’s been a challenge.  I previously posted a recipe for a sandwich made with a Spanish potato omelet with liver, but that’s not necessarily something I want to eat regularly.

Last night, I went to bed and couldn’t fall asleep.  I finally realized I was hungry, so I got out of bed and made myself a quesadilla with leftovers from Nopalito (get their carnitas, they are the best thing on the menu).  As I was eating my carnitas quesadilla, I noticed that I could taste the carnitas, but I mostly tasted the cheese and the tortillas.  I could probably hide some chopped liver in there, and some red onion might help distract from the liver.

Of course, being ambitious and prepared, I had Fallon Hills Ranch lamb liver and lamb heart, that I had already boiled, in the fridge.  So this morning I went out to buy some tortillas, cheese, a red onion, and some pickled jalapeños for my quesadilla experiment.  When I came home, I chopped up the liver and heart into small pieces and mixed them so that I’d have a supply of pre-chopped offal I could add to whatever I’m eating.  The experiment was a success.  I could barely taste the liver and I truly enjoyed eating the crispy, cheesy quesadilla.  Seeing as quesadillas are very easy and require very little time to make, this might be my vehicle for liver and heart from now on.

When Take-Out Just Won’t Do It

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Fresh Rice Noodles with Shrimp and Sweet Chili Oyster Sauce

I try to eat at home as often as possible, not because I’m anti-social, but because I like to know what goes into my food, and I like to make sure to get some vegetables into my diet every day.  Unfortunately, I’m still not great at estimating how much food I’ll need when I go to the farmer’s market and the grocery store.  Tonight, I was left with some leftover roasted potatoes, eggs, and breakfast sausage.  Sounds perfect for breakfast tomorrow–I didn’t feel like eating any of it tonight.

I spent 20 minutes looking up neighborhood restaurant menus, trying to decide what to order but nothing sounded appealing.  Dejected, I decided to see what else I could find in the fridge, and remembered that I had frozen shrimp.  That was a start!  But my problem was that I didn’t have any starch other than the leftover roasted potatoes and uncooked rice.  I didn’t want fresh steamed rice, and I didn’t have any leftover rice to make fried rice with.  Finally, I decided to head to the local Asian market.  I was going to make a rice noodle dish, and the market carries fresh rice noodles.

This is really a noodle dish made up of what I had in my fridge and freezer, but it turned out to be delicious for a few reasons.  First, I cooked the shrimp in their shells, and then peeled them before adding them back to the noodles.  It’s important to cook with shrimp that still have their shells on, because the shells provide flavor.  (Shrimp with heads are even better.)  Second, I used my friend Lisa’s not-secret combination of sweet chili sauce and oyster sauce to give the noodles a sweet and salty Asian flavor.  Third, I added one slice of bacon to give the noodles a hint of meat flavor.  Too much bacon and your dish tastes like Asian fusion (blech).  Finally, I had some heirloom tomatoes that were ready to be eaten, and they provided some acid and freshness to the noodles.

Fresh Rice Noodles with Shrimp and Sweet Chili Oyster Sauce

Equipment: 12″ skillet, well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick preferred

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons refined avocado oil
1/2 to 3/4 lb. shrimp, deveined with shells
1/2 onion, chopped
1 slice thick cut bacon, cut into 1/3″ pieces
1 cup blanched green beans, cut into 1.5″ pieces
1 large ripe tomato, cut into large bite-sized chunks or wedges (depends on the shape of your tomato)
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 package of fresh rice noodles, medium width, separated and unrolled by hand

Method:

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the shrimp in the skillet, adding up to 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, as needed, for about a minute on each side depending on the size of the shrimp.  Remove the shrimp from the skillet and spread into a single layer on a large plate, so they can cool off a bit.  Cook the bacon and onion together until the onion is translucent.  While the bacon and onion are cooking, peel the shrimp (work quickly!).  Add the green beans to the bacon and onion, and cook until warm, then add half the tomato.  When the tomato has let out some juice, add the shrimp back to the skillet along with a tablespoon of the avocado oil.  Then add the noodles and quickly stir in the sweet chili sauce and the oyster sauce, until the noodles are warmed and everything is evenly mixed.  Turn off the heat and serve the noodles immediately.  Garnish with the remaining fresh tomato.

Matcha Green Tea Waffles with Mochiko

Matcha Green Tea Waffles with Mochiko

Matcha Green Tea Waffles with Mochiko

I’ve been experimenting with waffles.  First, a whole-grain buttermilk waffle.  It was just OK.  It was crispy immediately after coming out of the waffle iron, but quickly turned soft once the steam inside caught up with the crust.  Today, I felt like eating a waffle that I could eat plain, without any toppings, as a treat.  The waffle needed to be sweet and crispy.  I think I figured it out.

I started out intending to make a plain, sweet waffle.  Then I saw a mochi waffle in my Facebook feed, and realized that a chewy waffle would be great.  I didn’t want a waffle that was just chewy, so I tried making a hybrid waffle.  This waffle has both soft white whole grain wheat pastry flour (which I bought from Ponsford’s Place in San Rafael, California, and which you can buy from Community Grains) and Mochiko glutinous rice flour.

The classic waffle recipe has 2 cups of flour, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of buttermilk with some baking soda, salt, 2 tablespoons of butter, and a small amount of sugar.  I’ve been making half batches, so I cut everything in half, except for the butter and sugar, because I wanted the butter flavor and an obviously sweet waffle.  I ended up quadrupling the butter and using an entire half cup of sugar.  This waffle is sweet.  (I would not go below 1/3 cup of sugar, if you want a sweet waffle.)  As I was melting the butter to add to the batter, I realized that since I was using Mochiko, I should flavor the waffle with some matcha green tea powder.  Luckily, it worked.  Really well.  Here is the recipe for crispy, chewy, matcha green tea waffles.

Matcha Green Tea Waffles with Mochiko

Equipment: waffle iron (I use the the Cuisinart Griddler with waffle plates and I get 5 waffles from this recipe); wire cooling rack

Ingredients:

Wet Ingredients:
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar (I used white sugar because I didn’t want the molasses flavor of Sucanat in this recipe)
4 tablespoons butter, melted (make sure you use good butter, because you’re after the butter flavor here)

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole grain pastry flour
1/2 cup Mochiko glutinous rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

Method:

Heat your waffle iron to high.  Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients.  Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just incorporated.  Don’t overdo it.  On the Cuisinart Griddler, this batter makes about 5-1/2 waffles, so portion out your batter accordingly.  I bake mine for 10 minutes on high.  The waffles are really soft and stretchy still at this point and it is ok.  They crisp up as they cool.  Just make sure there’s not a lot of steam coming out of your waffle iron, and that you get the proper golden-brown color you want.  Carefully remove the waffles from the waffle iron and let them cook on a wire cooling rack until they’re crispy.  Stuff your face.  Just don’t forget to take a photo for Instagram first.

Hipster Breakfast Inspired by Francis Mallmann

Oven-Baked Eggs with Tomato "Jam" and Toast

Baked Eggs and Tomato “Jam” with Toast

Mind of a Chef, Season 3, is up on Netflix.  I have been binge watching it.  The first half of this season features Chef Edward Lee from Louisville, Kentucky.  In Episode 3, Ed travels to Argentina to cook with Francis Mallmann, the gaucho chef.  Francis makes Ed a gaucho breakfast (on a wood stove, of course) of toast with coffee-onion stovetop jam, fried eggs, and charred cherry tomatoes.

The coffee-onion jam was interesting, but it was the charred tomatoes that really got me.  It immediately reminded me of my friend Malena’s technique, which is drying out old tomatoes past their prime in the oven, until they have a jam-like consistency.  I love burned charred foods, and dried-out tomatoes have so much concentrated tomato flavor.  What’s not to like?

So this morning, I decided I’d make my own rustic breakfast.  This is one of the simplest breakfasts, requiring only 6 ingredients: olive oil, garlic, tomato, salt, eggs, and bread.  This is ideally a dish you make with an old, wrinkled tomato and old bread.  I happened to have early girl tomatoes from the farmers’ market yesterday, so I sacrificed a fresh tomato.  Oh well.

Baked Eggs and Tomato “Jam” with Toast

Equipment: 8″ cast iron skillet

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tomato
2 pastured eggs
salt
toasted bread
optional: aleppo pepper flakes

Method:

Heat your oven to 475º.  On the stovetop, heat the olive oil in the cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced garlic as the oil is warming up.  Slice the tomato into thick slices and sprinkle with salt.

Then when the oil is hot, add the tomato slices to the skillet.  Transfer the skillet to the oven.  Let the tomato cook until it is soft and the skin is a bit dry.  Then crack two eggs into the skillet, and sprinkle with salt.  I also sprinkled some aleppo pepper flakes on mine (any red pepper flakes will work).

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Return the skillet to the oven and cook until the eggs are cooked to your desired consistency.  Serve in skillet, with toast.

Bocadillo de Tortilla de Patatas con Hígado

 

Spanish Potato Omelet Sandwich with hidden liver

Spanish Potato Omelet Sandwich (with liver)

I finally figured out a way to eat and enjoy liver!  I hid it.  In an omelet.  In a sandwich.  So I can’t taste it.  😀

Here is the history behind how I came to make the bocadillo de tortilla de patatas con hígado, or a Spanish potato and liver omelet sandwich.  In full disclosure, I have never been to Spain, and my only experience with Spanish food has been in restaurants and in a friend’s home, so technically, this is Spanish-inspired food.

Sometime around 2003-2004, someone recommended Zarzuela, a tapas restaurant in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, to my mom and me.  I had never had tapas (or Spanish food) before, and was intrigued.  My mom is always up for good food, so we went to Zarzuela and waited outside for what seemed like an eternity for a table.  This is where I first had patatas bravas and tortilla española, but more importantly, it’s where I fell in love with olive oil.  You read that right.  I never appreciated olive oil until I had the olive oil at Zarzuela (probably because I was buying fake olive oils from Safeway).  I never bothered to ask what olive oil they used, but I used to dip basketfuls of their soft white bread into the olive oil, which they let you pour freely from the glass bottles on each table.  It was very mild and buttery.  A few years ago, I went back to Zarzuela after not having eaten there in a long time, and although the food is not as good as I remembered, I still liked the olive oil.

Back to the tortilla española.  It is essentially a thick omelet cooked into the shape of a round cake, filled with potatoes and onions.  It’s served cold or at room temperature, and it is one of the best human inventions.  I can eat it plain, at room temperature or slightly chilled.  Fast forward about 10 years from that first tortilla tasting.  My friends hosted a paella night at their apartment.  In a conversation about the dinner, before the actual dinner, my friend Jaimi told me that in Spain they make sandwiches with the tortilla and that it’s her husband’s favorite food.  I thought that was brilliant, except that I wasn’t eating bread at the time (I was eating Paleo), so I couldn’t try it myself.

Fast forward another 2 years to last week.  I’m watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on Netflix.  It’s the Tangier, Morocco, episode.  Tony’s at a well-known café getting high with some locals, and next door to the café is a tiny closet-sized shop (is that the right word for a nook on the side of a building with a window?) from which an older man is frying and selling Spanish-style potato omelets.  Tony narrates the instructions for making the omelet and I am mesmerized.  There it is!  One of my favorite foods being made on television.  Tony and his guides sit down on the steps and eat their omelets slathered in mayonnaise and ketchup.  My mouth is watering at this point.  And I remember Jaimi’s words, “in Spain they make sandwiches with the tortillas.”  Then I remember I have some leftover boiled lamb’s liver I wanted to try to eat.  I can hide it in the omelet! I also have an open jar of Mark Sisson’s Primal Mayo in the fridge.  And some salsa brava from the last time I made Spanish-inspired food.  And most importantly, some leftover baked potatoes, half an onion, lots of nice tomatoes from the farmers’ market, and a loaf of Ponsford’s Place’s spicy olive bread.  I’m in business!

That was it!  A nudge and video recipe from Tony Bourdain, a flashback to Jaimi’s comment about her husband’s favorite food, and a serendipitous supply of all the ingredients I needed, put this beautiful, and extremely delicious and comforting, sandwich in front of me.  Now that you know the story behind this sandwich, I won’t keep you waiting any longer.  Here is bocadillo de tortilla de patatas con hígado.  This is not really a recipe, since it relies on leftovers, but it’s a way to think about using leftovers.

Bocadillo de Tortilla de Patatas con Hígado

makes 2 sandwiches

Equipment: 8″ well-seasoned cast iron skillet, or nonstick pan

Ingredients:

1/4 medium onion, chopped
3 pastured eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/3 cup finely diced boiled lamb’s liver (leftover from the prior week, when I tried really hard to eat liver)
1 small baked or boiled, and chilled, potato (I happened to have small russet potatoes I baked in advance to have around for food emergencies.  You should always have baked or boiled potatoes around for food emergencies.)
4 tablespoons Primal Mayo (I like lots of mayo on my sandwiches.  I like it to squeeze out the sides.)
salsa brava or harissa, as much as you like
4 thin, whole slices of whole grain sourdough bread, the biggest slices you can find from a round loaf
tomato slices, with salt

Tortilla Fillings

Method:

In the cast-iron skillet, fry the onion gently in a generous amount of olive oil, say 2 tablespoons, until soft, but not brown.  While the onions are cooking, gently beat the eggs and 1/4 tsp salt with a fork.  Use your hands to break up the potato into 1.5″ chunks.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 tsp salt onto the potatoes and then stir the potatoes and chopped liver into the beaten egg.  Strain the onion out of the skillet and into the egg mixture and gently stir again.

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Make sure there’s about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet.  Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and let it cook on medium-low heat until the omelet is 3/4 cooked.  Then carefully flip the omelet and cook for another minute.  Flip the omelet out onto a cutting board.

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While the omelet is resting, toast your bread and slather the mayonnaise on all the slices (making sure you line up the toasts so the mayo will end up on the inside of the sandwich!).  Then add dollops of salsa brava or harissa, to taste.  Cut the omelet in half for the two sandwiches.  Top with tomato slices.

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The tomato changed color! Or that is some Instagram filter. No, I just made this sandwich two days in a row because I love it so much. And I don’t care for continuity in scenes. This is not Hollywood.

Sandwich the omelet and tomato slices.  Hold the top of the bread firmly down while you use a serrated knife to cut the sandwich in half.  Enjoy!  (Don’t forget to use extra napkins.)

Whole Grain Scottish Shortbread

Whole-Grain Scottish Shortbread

Whole Grain Scottish Shortbread

I’ve been experimenting with whole grain baking.  Since I’ve been craving very buttery baked goods (shortbread, pound cake), and I don’t want to eat their white flour versions, I have to make my own.  The problem is that it’s Sunday, I don’t like going to the grocery store on weekends, and I was down to 1/2 cup of butter.

So, I decided I would quarter a recipe for Scottish shortbread and use whole grain flours.  I specify “Scottish” because to me, shortbread is a thick, crumbly cookie, like the Walker’s shortbread cookies my mom used to buy occasionally.  No chocolate dipped, 1/4″ thin cookies for me.

The basic ingredients are: butter, flour, and sugar.  I decided to use a combination of spelt flour and sprouted wheat flour (2/3 spelt, 1/3 sprouted wheat) just because I have both, and I don’t enjoy the taste of 100% sprouted wheat baked goods.  I also have been using Sucanat in place of regular sugar in everything I make.  Sucanat (and Rapadura, the other brand name) is dehydrated sugarcane juice.  Sucanat (and Rapadura) contains all of the vitamins and minerals that were in the sugarcane juice.  This is not the same as “evaporated cane juice,” which you’ll often see in a list of ingredients in store-bought foods, and which is actually just refined white sugar.  Sneaky, huh?  The downside to using Sucanat is that it contains all of the molasses from the sugarcane juice, so it can’t really replace white sugar, but I accept that because it’s not refined.  Since I am baking and I get to do whatever I want, I made my cookies sweeter, and added a tiny bit of salt and some vanilla to my shortbread crumble.  The end result was nuttier and more flavorful than a white flour shortbread, with crispy points, and a slightly chewy center.

My recipe makes 6 large cookies.  You can, of course, cut your cookies smaller, but why?  American sized plates are so big, it wouldn’t look right.

Whole Grain Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Equipment: This will be much easier if you have a food processor.  I used a mini 3-cup food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, use a pastry cutter.  If you don’t have a pastry cutter, then you can use the pinching method (See Mind of a Chef, season 2, episode 1, where Lisa Donovan shows Sean Brock how to make Chess Pie).

Ingredients:

1 cup whole grain flour (I used 2/3 cup spelt, 1/3 cup sprouted wheat)
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/3 cup Sucanat
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Combine the flour, Sucanat, and salt with a few pulses of the food processor.  Then, pulse to incorporate the butter one or two cubes at a time.  Pulse all of it until it becomes a crumble (this happens very quickly).  Add the vanilla extract and pulse a few more times.

Cover a large flat surface with parchment paper.  Dump the crumble onto the parchment and gently shape into a 1/2″ thick round disc.  Cut into 6 wedges.  Carefully transfer the wedges to a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a couple inches of space between each wedge.  You can prick the shortbread for looks.  I used a fork, but I suggest using a chopstick instead.  Fork tines are just too small and closely spaced.  Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes.  Let them cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Let the cookies cool completely before eating.

Iroriya – Weeknight Robata in the Silicon Valley

In a shopping center on the corner of Homestead Road and Lawrence Expressway in Santa Clara, California, is a popular ramen restaurant named Orenchi.  During their business hours, young people wait outside for a table.  But right next to Orenchi, there is a wooden door to a practically windowless suite in the building.  No line.  The unmarked storefront is Iroriya (3548 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, California).  The restaurant with no sign is literally a hidden gem in the Silicon Valley.

[Let me first admit that Japanese cuisine (at least of the American variety, since I’ve never been to Japan) is not my favorite.  Among commonly-found Japanese foods in the U.S., two of my favorites aren’t really Japanese (beef curry is English-Japanese and shabu shabu is Chinese-Japanese), and the other two are basically fast food (tonkatsu and sushi (which, in its contemporary form, created in the 1800s, is an early form of Japanese fast food!).  When I venture away from my favorite dishes, I think the simplicity of Japanese cuisine is lost on me.  It all tastes too similar.]

Iroriya is the first Japanese restaurant I’ve been to where the menu, food, and experience feel authentic to me.  The food doesn’t taste like it was altered for American tastes.  In fact, in the two times I’ve been, almost all of the age-diverse customers were Japanese or Taiwan-Chinese (remember, Japan colonized Taiwan for 50 years) and very few were speaking English.  With that said, I don’t love everything on the menu, but I do like peeking into a different culture.  Iroriya’s focus is robatayaki, or slow charcoal grilling, but some of my favorite dishes there were sashimi.  Luckily, they have good fish, so I’m perfectly fine with that.  (In fact, one of the things they’re known for is their uni box.)

The Menu

The Iroriya menu consists of a five-page permanent menu, and a one-page seasonal menu.  There’s actually quite a bit of food to choose from–appetizers, salads, sashimi, robata, rice, and noodles.  Good thing, too, because the portions are small, and I am a big eater.  The inside cover of the menu explains himono, a centuries old practice of grilling salted and sun-dried fish over charcoal.  According to the menu, drying and salting the fish keeps the fish fresh and preserves the nutrients in the fish.  We ordered the himono special the first time we ate at Iroriya (a whole fish), and I liked it, but it was very very salty, and my parents weren’t up for it this time.  I think this is why people drink beer and sake.

What We Ate

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Yellow jack sashimi on the seasonal menu.  I am the worst at remembering what types of fish I like at sushi restaurants.  I usually leave it up to the chef, and eat everything anyway.  But, I will try to remember yellow jack, because this fish was good.  Buttery and crunchy at the same time.  By the way, they serve real wasabi here.  Grated root, none of that powdery stuff.  I kept eating the wasabi by itself (torturing my nose in the process).

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Fried baby octopus from the regular menu.  We had this on both visits, and I liked it both times.  It is slightly greasy, but the chewy crunch, and the flavor make up for the grease.  Also, they only give you 5 tiny animals on a bed of dressed cabbage and paper thin onion, so you don’t even get a chance to think too much about the grease.

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Fresh river trout robata on the seasonal menu.  This fish was much much smaller (think the size of the small fried fish you get as banchan at some Korean restaurants) than I expected, but the meat was tender and fresh.  The fins and tail were coated in a coarse salt, which was interesting and caused some bits to be super salty, but it was overall a good dish.  (I tasted the pink and white stick on the fish–seems to be shaved and dyed pickled ginger.)

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Smoked tuna with wasabi mayonnaise on the seasonal menu.  This was my favorite dish of the night.  I don’t know what it is about wasabi, but I loved the wasabi mayo.  I even ate the little lettuces underneath with the mayo.  The smoke flavor was perfect on the tuna–noticeable, but not overpowering.

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Seaweed fried soft shell crab on the seasonal menu.  This was the one dish that was bigger than I expected.  It came with two crabs, perfectly fried with a thin batter embedded with flecks of sweet roasted seaweed.  The batter was interesting, but the crab itself was kind of bland.  I’ve had much sweeter and flavorful soft shell crab.

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Rice with marinated salmon roe and a poached egg on the regular menu.  This was one of my favorite dishes last time, but today it was just OK.  The rice was a little gummy, the egg slightly over-cooked (this is where a sous vide immersion circulator, like the Nomiku, would come in handy), and the salmon roe needed additional soy sauce this time.

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Fried shrimp with mayonnaise from the regular menu.  I was expecting something similar to one of my beloved Chinese dishes–walnut shrimp.  But sadly, the shrimp was very dry and chewy.  I do not recommend.  However, underneath the shrimp were not only shrimp chips (not great) but also delicious mayonnaise coated potato cubes.  It was like a Japanese patatas bravas.  So good.  I need to cook some potatoes and coat them in sweet MSG mayo (just kidding, I won’t do Kewpie at home).

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Mountain yam, robata-grilled, on the regular menu.  Crunchy and watery-tasting like jicama.  Slimy like okra.  Neither like nor dislike.  My parents were into it because it’s supposedly medicinal in Chinese culture and they were curious to try it.

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Seaweed-wrapped grilled mochi on the regular menu.  I loved this dish last time, but today it was just OK.  The mochi is glazed with a sweet soy sauce, which goes really well with the crispy, grilled exterior, but there wasn’t enough glaze tonight.  Last time, it was perfection.  Reminded me of those soy-glazed rice crackers I loved to snack on when I was little.

We were still hungry after all of the above, so I ordered a few more dishes before dessert.

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Yellowtail sashimi on the regular menu.  It’s yellowtail.  You like it (mom and me) or you don’t (dad).  Everyone likes the fresh wasabi, though.

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“Adult” karaage on the regular menu.  I forgot what makes this chicken karaage for “adults”.  I think it’s because the chicken pieces are bigger and there’s a sweet chili sauce on it.  Again, this is a dish that was better last time (the batter was better, or maybe it was fried better), but the chicken was still juicy and flavorful inside.  **Note: This dish provides the most substantial amount of protein on the entire menu.**

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Motsuni (“stewed beef giblets”) on the regular menu.  I specifically asked what innards to expect before I ordered it, but unfortunately, something was lost in translation.  I asked if this was going to be beef liver and the server emphatically said yes.  It turned out to be what I think was tripe stewed in a sweet miso and soy-based sauce with root vegetables and konnyaku jelly.  Tasty, but not what I expected based on the conversation.  It was pretty fatty, and would have been better with rice (which we had finished by then).

Finally, desserts!  Last time, the seasonal dessert was house-made miso ice cream.  I didn’t love it.  However, I can’t help but order strange-sounding desserts.

First up, a black pepper panna cotta with daikon geleé from the seasonal menu.  I couldn’t really taste the daikon but I could definitely taste the black pepper.  The panna cotta underneath the thin jelly was very rich and creamy, with a little jiggle.  I liked this one.

Second dessert sounded weird, but I had to try it.  Eggplant brûlée.  I imagined this was going to be a sweetened and mashed eggplant with a crispy sugar crust, but after asking, the server told me it was, in fact, a custard.  Oh well.  I wanted to try it anyway.  It tasted like crème brûlée with a baba ghanoush aftertaste because of the smokiness of the roasted (grilled?) eggplant.  It was not bad, but it was strange and hard to get used to.  I gave up on eating this one.

Iroriya intrigues me because it’s different from Japanese food I’ve had in the past and I feel like I get to peek into Japan when I eat there.  I’m excited it’s in the Silicon Valley.  I will probably take a break from it and revisit it in a few months to see what’s on the seasonal menu.  Good news for you?  Iroriya accepts reservations.

San Francisco Mission District Food Crawl

One of the things I like to do is to graze my way around a city.  It allows me try the best things to eat and drink, without the commitment of a full meal (or having to choose between two things).  It’s best done with one other food sample-loving person, so you can each eat half-portions.

Today, my mom took the train up to the city and we explored the Mission District.  The Mission is great because Valencia street has a ton of shops and restaurants and you can spend a few hours browsing and eating.  In other neighborhoods it seems like I run out of things to look at in an hour or so.

Here are the places I visited today and what we ate, in chronological order:

Craftsman and Wolves 746 Valencia Street, San Francisco; Four Barrel Coffee 375 Valencia Street, San Francisco

We picked up a 4505 smoked ham and cheese twist with winter veg confetti and smoked cheddar, hot pepper gougère and walked four blocks to Four Barrel Coffee for lattes (regular for mom, iced decaf for me).  If I were to do this again, I’d skip Craftsman and Wolves and just buy the B. Patisserie and Neighbor Bakehouse pastries they have at Four Barrel (they even had slices of B. Patisserie gluten-free almond cake).  Craftsman & Wolves turns out good-looking pastries, but the taste is not worth the calories or refined grains.  (Another coffee option, if you want to walk a little further, is Sightglass Coffee (3014 20th Street, San Francisco).  I love Sightglass Coffee, but my mom can get it where she lives and there are no shops to browse on the way there.)

La Palma Mexicatessen 2884 24th Street, San Francisco

Since we got greedy and shared two pastries, I decided we should take our time to walk down Valencia street and browse the shops.  Luckily, our second stop, La Palma Mexicatessen, was at the opposite end of our food trek, 1.6 miles away.  La Palma makes the delicious, chewy, soft corn tortillas served at Nopalito (306 Broderick Street, San Francisco and 1224 9th Avenue, San Francisco).  My friend Susan introduced me to La Palma’s huarache, a bean-filled corn tortilla in the shape of a sandal, and topped with meat, veggies and sauce.  (Here is a picture of their chicken huarache.)  I like mine with carnitas.  Susan prefers chicharrón.  Mom and I shared a huarache with carnitas.  We drank water because I don’t love their horchata (it’s ok) and I don’t like to drink “ok” horchata.

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen 3150 24th Street, San Francisco

My original plan was to eat half a huarache and half a handmade tortilla taco at La Palma.  But on the way there, we passed by Wise Sons and I quickly changed my mind.  I intentionally only ate half a huarache in order to save room for half of a pastrami sandwich at Wise Sons.  Yelpers are right–the pastrami is great and it is expensive.  At $16+ after tax, the pastrami sandwich at Wise Sons is pricey even for San Francisco.  But, the meat is delicious and they give you a huge side of potato salad (or coleslaw) so you can’t leave hungry.  The potato salad wasn’t anything special, but it did taste fresh.  I would consider going back to get a smoked trout sandwich…for R&D purposes, so I can make my own at home!  But…maybe I’ll get a Reuben, after seeing this photo.

After Wise Sons, we did more shopping to help digest our lunch.  After all, we had a reservation at Cockscomb (564 4th Street, San Francisco) coming up.  I thought I would have room for ice cream at Humphry Slocombe (2790A Harrison Street, San Francisco), but I really didn’t.  I had also hoped to share a slice of pizza from Arizmendi Bakery (1268 Valencia Street, San Francisco) to remind me of my college Friday lunch treat at Cheese Board Pizza (1512 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley), but that didn’t happen, either.  (It might have happened before La Palma if there hadn’t been a line out the door.)  Finally, we finished browsing Valencia Street.  I was parched and walked to Boba Guys (3491 19th Street, San Francisco), but the line was too long!  We had to leave, so I will have to try their tapioca milk tea some other time.

We only managed to sample food from four places today (five if you count dinner), but it was enough and left me things to eat on my next trip to the Mission.  Pig & Pie (2962 24th Street, San Francisco) is one of my favorites and will have to make it on the itinerary next time.

Cilantro-Mint Shrimp and Bacon Salad Sandwiches

Cilantro-Mint Shrimp and Bacon Salad Sandwich

Cilantro-Mint Shrimp and Bacon Salad Sandwich

I recently picnicked with friends on the field at AT&T Park for the San Francisco Opera’s annual Opera in the Park event.  This year, the simulcast was for The Marriage of Figaro (which is a funny opera, by the way).  I wanted to bring something that wasn’t cheese, charcuterie, or a snack.  It also had to be portable and easy for me to carry into the park.

I hadn’t had sandwiches in a while, I was thinking about shrimp, and I had a couple of jars of Mark Sisson’s Primal Mayo in my pantry.  One of my favorite sandwiches used to be the lobster and bacon club sandwich at the Neiman Marcus restaurant in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, and it became obvious to me that I had to make a shrimp and bacon sandwich.

I also had mint and cilantro lying around and I love that combination of herbs in Vietnamese food, so I decided to add that to the shrimp and bacon salad.  At the time I was also trying to reintroduce wheat into my diet, so I used sprouted wheat hamburger buns made by Alvarado Street Bakery.  They also make sliced bread, but the hamburger buns felt much softer, so I used those.  You’ll notice this recipe doesn’t ask for salt, because the shrimp is salty enough for the whole sandwich.

The Herbs

The Herbs

Cilantro-Mint Shrimp and Bacon Salad Sandwiches

Makes 6 sandwiches

Equipment:

You will need a big bowl and a bunch of ice.

Ingredients:

1.5 lb shrimp with shells on (I like large, wild-caught shrimp)
6-8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/3 inch strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
2 tablespoons chopped mint (leaves only)
1/3-1/2 cup Primal Mayo (start with 1/3 and add more if you like more mayo in your sandwiches)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar should work, too)
1 spring onion (or green onion), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 package (6 buns) Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted wheat hamburger buns

Method:

Poach the shrimp.  I do this by boiling a half-pot of water in a 5.5 quart cast iron cocotte.  You can do this in any kind of pot, but I like that the cast iron holds heat.  When the water is boiling, dump in all the shrimp and turn the heat down to medium.  Then let the shrimp sit in the water for about 5 minutes (should be bright orange-pink).  Take the shrimp out with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of iced water.  (You can keep your shrimp boiling water, because now it has an excellent shrimp flavor you can use as a soup base.)  When the shrimp are cool, drain them in a colander.

Poaching

Poaching

Chilled and Drained Shrimp

Chilled and Drained Shrimp

Cook the bacon until it is brown, but not necessarily crisp.  Strain the bacon from the fat, and save the fat to use some other time, or toss it.  I only keep bacon fat if I use pastured pork bacon.

Peel the chilled shrimp and cut up the shrimp into 1/3″ pieces.  Mix the cut-up shrimp, bacon, cilantro, mint, spring onions, garlic, Primal Mayo, and vinegar.

Mix everything together

Mix everything together

Then scoop the shrimp and bacon salad onto the hamburger buns and serve!  Tomato slices are optional.

This sandwich had extra mayo and a slice of heirloom tomato.  I don't suggest adding the tomato if you are transporting this to a picnic.  It's better to pack the tomato slices separately and assemble before eating.

This sandwich had extra mayo and a slice of heirloom tomato. I don’t suggest adding the tomato if you are transporting this to a picnic. It’s better to pack the tomato slices separately and assemble before eating.

Potato Hash with Eggs and Harissa — 15 Minute Recipe to Pump Up Your Muscles

15-minute Potato Hash with Eggs and Harissa

15-minute Potato Hash with Eggs and Harissa

Today is leg day.  Just kidding.  My once a week HIT workouts are always a full-body workout.  HIT workouts deplete your muscles of glycogen, so you need some glycogen in your muscles to begin with.  Usually, my workouts are in the early morning, and I don’t have time to eat beforehand.  I make sure to load up on starch the night before, so I have some juice in my muscles for the next morning.  I didn’t eat a lot of starch last night, but my workout today is late morning, so I had time to make breakfast.

Potatoes are my starch of choice.  I love rice, but I love potatoes even more.  Here is a 15-minute recipe to help you pump up your muscles.

Potato Hash with Eggs and Harissa

Equipment:

small, non-stick skillet with lid

Ingredients:

1 small, organic potato (I like Yukon Gold, but you should use whatever organic potato you can find–potatoes are on the dirty dozen list!), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 small, organic onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
salt
2 pastured eggs
Harissa, to taste
Italian parsley, for garnish

Method:

Heat skillet to medium high and add olive oil.  When oil is hot, add potatoes, onion, garlic, and salt, and stir.  Make sure the potatoes are in an even layer.

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Put a lid on the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Do not disturb the potatoes, for at least 10 minutes, until they are soft.  When the potatoes are soft, flip them gently and then crack two eggs on top of the hash.  Sprinkle some salt on the egg yolks, then cover the skillet.

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When the egg whites have set, turn off the heat and gently transfer the potatoes and eggs to a plate.  Top with harissa and parsley.