Salmon belly with kale and onions

Salmon bellies! Turns out they sell them, mixed with scraps of tail, as “butcher’s cuts” at our local supermarket — less than $2 a pound, if you happen to visit while they’re available. I don’t want everyone to get in on this, so I’m not going to extol their virtues; I will just write this down so I know what to do with them next time I get a hold of some.

NB: This would probably also be tasty with a more general cut of salmon or trout hacked into gobbets, although removing the bones is definitely preferable for serving.

Buy or make bread, optimally whole-grain sourdough or something substantial like that. Rice pilaf would be OK but probably not quite as good. Also acquire a decent Belgian-style beer if at all possible.

Skin the salmon scraps and rinse off loose scales. Marinate in a mixture of wine (rice or white), soy sauce, brown sugar, grated ginger, and dill, preferably for an hour or two.

Slice a decently big onion into thin longitudinal slivers and sautee it in ~1 T each butter and sesame oil, with salt. Shred 6 big leaves or so of kale, wilt it after the onions get soft, add wine and put the lid on. Once the kale gets soft (variable), open it up, then put it in the serving dish once it’s dried out a little; try to leave the oil behind.

In the same pan, melt another chunk of butter, then fish out the salmon chunks from their marinade and fry them on pretty high heat until they’re cooked through and a little brown. Dump them, with all remaining oil, on top of the kale and serve it with bread and beer.

Published in: on 11 July 2015 at 6:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kelp chips (dasima twigim, 다시마 튀김) in the oven

This is something you get as banchan every now and then, and I like it a lot. Usually when you find it in restaurants it’s made by deep-frying dry kelp pieces, but I don’t have a deep fryer at home, so I decided to reverse engineer it from recipes online. This recipe starts out with fresh or rehydrated kelp, not dried. (I even used pieces that I’d rehydrated in the process of making dashi and it worked fine — plenty of kelp taste!)


Set the oven to 250 degrees F. Take the wet kelp and cut it up into pieces of edible size — about 1″ square is a good range to aim for. Put the pieces in a bowl and give them a good coat of oil. Sesame oil is good, plus some corn to keep it from burning; or you can use olive oil if you like that better. It’ll taste more Korean with sesame though. Then put some salt and sugar on it — to taste, I don’t like mine that sweet but opinions vary. Arrange it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for an hour. If you’ve oiled them sufficiently, they should get crispy and delicious, and they won’t stick to the pan unless you put a ton of sugar on them. Actualy, come to think of it, if you like them that sweet just wait and sprinkle more on at the end, once they come out of the oven.

That’s it! Nom. I made these 10 minutes ago and they are ALL gone. Damn.

A side note: Has anyone noticed that Google changes “kelp chips” to “kale chips” and won’t let you change it?

Published in: on 12 December 2012 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Making your own ramen powder (WITH MSG)

DIY instant ramen powder:

  • 4 t salt
  • 4 t onion powder
  • 4 t garlic powder
  • 4 t fine chile powder (preferably Korean, but MUST be fine powder and not flakes)
  • 2 t ginger powder
  • 4 t sugar
  • <1 t MSG
  • 1 t white pepper, or black pepper if you prefer
  • optional: a tiny bit of black salt, anything else you like

Per 1 pint of boiling water, add 2 1/2 tsp of this mixture, plus soy sauce, sesame oil, wasabi powder, and pickled vegetables to taste.  Pickles containing fresh ginger work exceptionally well.

And now a rant: We are posting this extensively tested recipe because it was utterly impossible to find a recipe for a DIY ramen powder that was not hedged about with various nonsense about avoiding MSG by substituting other substances: chicken broth (naturally contains MSG, even the ones that say “No Added MSG” or that you made yourself), miso (naturally contains MSG), soy sauce (…), kombu (…!) — you get the picture. (The exception to this was one recipe which was generally reasonable except in using a 1:1 ratio of MSG to salt, which we’d already proven to our own satisfaction to be wildly excessive.) The upshot of it was, though, that everyone else was also trying for that addictive processed-food quality, just as we were, and all their clever strategies for not admitting that they wanted to add MSG were swamping my Googling efforts. It was reminiscent of the time that I searched for Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to figure out how you made soy sauce without fermentation, and all the hits I got were of people asking each other breathlessly whether it was true that Bragg’s was made using CHEMICALS. Which, in case you were wondering, turned out to be freaking hydrochloric acid. Yeah. Protons and chloride ions, apparently, are totally unacceptable if you’re a serious natural foods enthusiast. I hope they don’t dress their salad with salt and lemon juice.

So why did we want to make our own ramen powder, if not to substitute the straight MSG with various MSG-containing substances? Two words: (1) Salt, and (2) Packaging. Packaging is obvious, especially since everything but the MSG and wasabi powder were already in our spice cabinet, and a gallon’s worth of soup mixture is now in a little jar in the cupboard instead of in five hundred brightly coloured foil packets. Dropping the salt content from “pickles” to “soup” also makes the broth drinkable, which is nice. But in the process of concocting this, we came up with a good (3): Better noodles. Switching out the usual fried noodle cakes for the big bag of “Not Fried in Oil” noodle cakes from the noodle aisle of the Chinese grocery store turned out to be both a substantial amount cheaper and much tastier. Don’t know if they’re better to begin with, or if the frying process just ruins the gluten, but these were much more substantial and chewier, while not losing any of the addictive instant-ramen flavour we were trying for. And it also gave us the opportunity to switch out the frying oil for a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, which does not need my advocacy.

The point is this: these ratios of salt:sugar:MSG are tasty.  If you have a choice, err on the side of slightly less MSG. A little of that stuff goes an incredibly long way. It’s magic, but you have to be careful with magic.

The other point is this: if you are going to refuse to eat a particular chemical compound, for goodness’ sake do your best to not sound like a total fool about it. I understand weirdly specific protein allergies, believe me, but if you were allergic to glutamate you would be dead. That’s like being allergic to serotonin. Sheesh.

Published in: on 28 May 2011 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weird stuff cooked recently


curry bread with a lot of leftover curried butternut squash soup

sweet bread with pumpkin puree, wild grape and autumn olive pulp, chopped pecans, sugar, rum-soaked dried apricots

ground beef made from heart

beef heart as meat in long-cooked beef stew

roasted veggie croquettes: beet, sweet potato, stewed tough cole leaf stems, potato, P.A.N.


cornbread with kefir instead of soymilk


Thai mussel mousseline

sauerkraut-juice bread  with onions cooked in olive oil, sunflower/fennel/cumin seeds

sweet bread with wild grape syrup, sunflower seeds, raisins soaked in applejack and sugar

Published in: on 13 March 2011 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Experimental pickle #2

Shredded 2 carrots, 1/3 of a large daikon, 7 small parsley roots. Added ~2T coarse sea salt and allowed to wilt. Toasted and ground 3 chiles moritas on the stove, plus 1T coriander and 1t Sichuan peppercorn. Mixed this into the vegetables with 5 smashed garlic cloves and packed into a jar to ferment.

Published in: on 11 September 2010 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Creamy porcini-tomato sauce

1 small handful dry porcini mushrooms, soaked overnight
1 20 oz can whole tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 onion, peeled and quartered
6 cloves garlic
3 T cooking butter
salt, white pepper, nutritional yeast
1 T flavourful cultured butter (to finish)

Put the mushrooms (with soaking water), tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, garlic, and butter into the slow cooker. Add water as necessary to cover everything so that the onions float. Salt a little bit and leave on low overnight.

In the morning, add about 1 t white pepper and 1 T nutritional yeast, and water if necessary to dissolve them. Stir and let cook 1 hour more on low.

Puree with hand blender, adjust seasoning, stir in fancy butter, and let it reduce to desired consistency.

Published in: on 14 March 2010 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas pudding

Christmas Pudding (a.k.a. Plum Pudding, Figgy Pudding)

Note — This should be prepared a minimum of one whole day before serving, in order to let it set up and the flavours to meld properly. It can, however, be kept for six months or more, occasionally dosing with more alcohol until saturated (about 1 month).

12 oz figs, stemmed
12 oz raisins
12 oz prunes
6 oz dried apricots
1 large orange
1 small lemon
1 oz dark rum or molasses
1 c hot water
Cut all dried fruit to about raisin size and put in a large bowl. Zest and then juice the lemon and orange; reserve the zest. Pour orange juice, lemon juice, and rum over the dried fruit, then add hot water. Mix together and leave to macerate about an hour.

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp white pepper
lemon and orange zest previously prepared
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Add spices to zest and mix very well, then add flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda and mix again.

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
16 oz nuts (slivered almonds and apricot kernels)
milk or soymilk as necessary
When the dried fruits have absorbed all the liquid, stir the butter and eggs into them, then the nuts. Mix this thoroughly with the dry ingredients, adding milk as necessary to get the batter to a consistency thinner than that of mashed potatoes but thicker than cake batter.

Moisten and flour a large dishcloth, then use it to line a mould (a 2-quart round glass bowl works well here). Pour the pudding batter into the cloth and tie it at the top with twine or a rubber band, allowing a little room for expansion. Place the mould on a rack at the bottom of a large stockpot, add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the mould, and bring to a boil. Steam the pudding for 4 hours or until a chopstick stuck into the middle comes out clean. Check pot occasionally to make sure the water does not run out.

When the pudding is cooked through, pull the mould out of the pot and set it out to cool. Once cool enough to touch, carefully peel the cloth off (the surface may stick a little). If serving within the next day or two, flip it flat side down onto a platter and pour about 2 oz dark rum over the top to soak in immediately, then cover it with foil and put away in a cupboard. Traditionally, it is warmed before serving, then flambéed at the table (using hot 151-proof rum) and served with hard sauce.

This pudding can keep for six months or more in a closed container at room temperature, if an ounce or so of rum is poured over it every week for the first month. This will result in an increasingly boozy pudding, which should be warmed up before flambéeing in order to vapourize and flame off more of the alcohol. Or not, if you prefer — I suppose it ultimately depends on your audience.

Published in: on 24 December 2009 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Biji croquettes

Minced: 1 carrot, 1 stick celery, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic.
Fried with spices until onions were transparent.
Added: 2 c biji, 1/2 c rice flour (regular), some soy sauce.
Adjusted seasonings, then added 1 egg and mixed in thoroughly.
Rolled apricot-sized lumps of this mixture in more rice flour (seasoned with salt/pepper/garlic), compressed into patties, then shallow fried in high-temp oil (at medium heat) on both sides until brown.

Notes: Rice flour + egg make an even better binder for croquettes than wheat flour + egg. I don’t think these would work very well for grilling, but they work fine shallow fried — try pan fried next time to conserve oil?

Published in: on 30 August 2009 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mussels, take 2

We decided to elaborate on the previous dish of mussels in white wine, to see what happened.

Didn’t have any shallots, so instead I used a tablespoon or two of scallion compound butter, plus three pressed cloves of garlic. When this started smelling, I added the zest from one tiny orange (probably 2.5″ diameter), added a glass of chardonnay, then dropped in a half-kilo of mussels and simmered as before.

Served this, once again, with the lemon-garlic pasta, except this time I added the juice from the same orange. Also, the only bread we had lying about was some green onion bread from 99 Ranch last Monday.

Verdict: Shallots are distinctly superior to garlic in this dish; the sweetness is helpful.  The orange zest was nice, but there was too much of it. The bread was a terrible match, didn’t go at all.  On the other hand, the touch of orange juice was a lovely addition to the lemon-garlic pasta.

Next time try this: Brown 2 garlic cloves in butter (for bitterness), add 1/2 c shallots, cook until soft. Add only a teaspoon of orange zest (plus maybe a little bit of minced fennel tops), then wine and mussels. When mussels are done, pull them out; temper the broth with a quarter-cup or so of the green-box soy milk, warm again, then strain into a bowl. (Ideally this bowl would already contain some chiffonaded arugula and basil, plus finely sliced fennel bulb.) Serve it with good Western bread and lemon-orange-garlic pasta.

Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  


I just finished a rather yucky culinary task. Hope it turns out to have been worth it.

So it turns out that what I thought was chicken breast was actually an entire boneless turkey thigh, cut into a single sheet of meat with the skin still attached. Upon finding this out, I took the opportunity to make something resembling porchetta: I rolled the meat up with fennel tops, garlic, salt and pepper, wrapped it in the skin, tied it with twine, and marinated in salted red wine before baking in the marinade. It smells marvelous; I peeled the skin off and sliced it thin for sandwiches, since Daniel’s a big fan of turkey sandwiches. He says it’s tasty.

Byproducts:  All the skin (dyed excitingly purple on one side) and a bit of fatty tissue that didn’t cook out; pan juices consisting of boiled wine, drippings, and the fat that did cook out. I put the former in a lump in the container with the sliced meat and refrigerated it. The latter I poured off into a pan, where it turned into a weird meat-and-wine gelatin with a thick layer of congealed fat on top. These two sets of leftovers clearly demanded a plan.

Boiled wine and gelatinous meat juices, flavoured with fennel and garlic? Sounded like a start for a vaguely-medieval pasta sauce. I figured I should try mincing the cooked skin and fat really finely, so that when cooked with caramelized onions it would basically disappear into a puddle of oil with tiny crispy protein bits in it. Well, I just did that, and EWWWW. Seriously. Not only did my fingers get greasy and smell like meat, the stuff was of a totally nauseating texture — somewhere between wood-ear mushrooms and, I don’t know, boiled bacon or something.  And it was in these big rubbery sheets with extensive purple stains and a disconcerting fennel smell, and the whole thing just seemed like someone’s dinner from Unknown Kadath.

Anyhow. I’ll post about it later. I hope it turns out well.

ETA: It totally was. This was a phenomenally rich, sweet, medieval-tasting sauce — a proof that a tomato-less pasta sauce can be as gorgeous as a well-caramelized ragú.

I first soaked a handful of raisins in my own heavily-spiced dark rum and some hot water. I took the gross minced stuff aforementioned, added the fat from the top of the drippings, and melted it all in a saucepan until it was sizzling. Then I added one whole largish onion, sliced thinly, and a teaspoon or so of minced rosemary; mushed the raisins and three or four cloves of garlic through a garlic press and added them too; and cooked the whole mess until the onions were brownish.  I then added the fennel-flavoured wine jelly (which de-jelled immediately) and another teaspoon of minced rosemary, threw in probably a tablespoon each of white pepper powder and fresh-ground black pepper and a pinch of cinnamon, and added a dash of wine and a little butter to make a reasonable sauce consistency. Served this with penne rigate, which took up the sauce beautifully and let the little bits of caramelized onion get into their tubes, and a glass of the 2007 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon.

Truly, a beautiful thing. I’m going to have to make a point of caramelizing onions with minced soaked raisins more often. Incredibly decadent-tasting, quite medieval in effect with all the sweetness and spices and no tomato or pepper.  The Cabernet, one of our faves, brought out the raisiny notes in the sauce just right. The slight funkiness of the meat fats (strongly-flavoured terrestrial meats always disturb me a tiny bit) was smoothed out by the sweet and sulfurous onion and the various spices. And all this from the parts of a marinated roasted boneless turkey thigh that one might reasonably discard… it was totally worth the gross fingers yesterday.

Then again, a culinary pleasure today is almost always worth an inconvenience yesterday. It’s one of those principles that keeps me going.

Published in: on 12 February 2009 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment