A drink for Safia… and everyone

This drink is in honor of my cocktail hour-loving BFF and her birthday this week.  She is a vodka Martini girl and did turn my gin Martini rule into more of a preference.  Then I tasted the pickled ume plums from Zuké and knew that they were perfect cocktail garnish.  They would also be great in a salad dressing, but that can wait till after cocktail hour.

Safia Sake-tini

1.5 oz of good local Vodka **
1.5 oz of Sake
2 ume plums pickled by Zuké

If you are a stirrer go ahead and ignore the directions.

1)   Measure the Sake and Vodka into a cocktail shaker.  Add the ice.  Large cubes work better as chipped ice makes a slushee.  Shake them up until the spirits get really cold.

2)   Pour into a Martini glass.  Add the ume plums as garnish.  It may take more than two – they are so good I ate a jar of them while developing the recipe.

** For Vodka, I would choose something local and more mellow like Syntax Vodka from Greeley.  Their nice vibe perfectly compliments the Zuké lusciousness.

Fat Chance… Easy Homemade Mayonnaise

I had an epiphany last week.  It was a rich moment quite a few weeks in the making and has left me with a conviction that I feel from deep within my heart all the way down to the soles of my sandals.  I will never again buy another jar of mayonnaise.  The fact that it took me so long to come to this seems ridiculous to me now however let me polish off my rear view mirror and explain.

Mayonnaise is extremely easy to make.  All you need is a bowl, a whisk, an egg and some oil.  I used to make it five minutes before service banging together my last minute mis-en-place not because I was late for work that day and didn’t do my prep… but because I knew how little time it would take me and how glorious and glistening it would be freshly whipped from the robot coupe, slid into the top of a refrigerated pantry station in a clean stainless steel nine pan nestled next to cut herbs, edible flowers, fresh fruits and other delightful touches with which to finish the perfect plate.

I’ve been reading labels at the grocery store. I know, occupational hazard right?  Well I’m not just looking at the art although food packaging is a stimulating form of media for my family and between myself and my dear husband we could work through an entire grocery isle and endorse or eschew hundreds of items by their visual representation alone. No, I am interested in what things are made of.  Our own company’s preparation for organic certification as well as the recent article in the Times about Eden Foods and the peril slash pitfall world of U.S.D.A. Certified Organic versus truly health giving versus healthy for a robust corporate bottom line – absurdly complex sentences aside this got me thinking constantly about why things are made the way that they are made.

NYT – Organic Food Purists Worry About Big Companies Influence

I’ve been in the food business for a long time and I’ve received plenty of deliveries off the backs of trucks that deal specifically in large packages of food for industrial use.  Industrial Mayonnaise is very disgusting stuff.  It comes in a 5 gallon bucket which is lined with a bag.  At one restaurant where we used to go through obscene amounts of the stuff the bag would get hefted out and inevitably abused. Raucous games of slap and squeeze, toss and wiggle would ensue to giggles and guffaws.  I would feel sick in the pit of my stomach watching that sad sack of plastic encased oil emulsion passed from one set of disrespecting hands to the next.  Sadder still I knew little about nutrition at the time however somehow I instinctively knew that there was very little goodness in that bag.  Even more incredulous to think that one might be able to buy the same bag of “Extra Fancy” mayo of a “low fat” sensibility.  Egads!  If there’s no fat in that schloop what on earth truly is? Have a quick look at these ingredient lists…Mayonnaise

Soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality).

Water, soybean oil, vinegar, modified corn starch**, whole eggs and egg yolks, sugar, salt, xanthan gum**, lemon and lime peel fibers** (thickeners), (sorbic acid**, calcium disodium EDTA) used to protect quality, lemon juice concentrate, phosphoric acid**, DL alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), natural flavors, beta carotene**. **Ingredient not in mayonnaise

As with many low fat foods notice the addition of sugar as well as in this case loads of chemical thickener.  Note the calcium disodium EDTA keeps your egg based product stable at room temperature… it’s also in certain face creams that will stop your face from going bad at room temperature too. Of course the organic versions of the above listed must be better for you right?  Wrong.  Although there are fewer scary additives I generally find that the organic mayos all use predominantly soy oil, canola oil and palm oil all of which I have been taught for various reasons to avoid.  Soy is a known adaptogen, shown to bind itself to estrogen receptors it confuses our hormonal balance.  There is no such thing as a Canola plant.  Rapeseed is a kind mustard seed.  Rapeseed Oil is known to produce a high amount of a toxin called erucic acid.  This fact was generally known by the early 20th Century public – the Mustard Gas that was manufactured from the plant I guess was a dead giveaway. The Rapeseed plant was re-engineered (bred in a laboratory) to have low toxicity at which point they re-branded it changing the name to CANOLA (Canadian Oil Low Acid).  Canola Oil is generally “refined” which is a nice way of saying it’s been heated up already, and as we are learning now we want to keep to expeller pressed oils as preheated oils are more unstable and quite likely they are poised to oxidize or are already oxidized and ready to release free radicals that cause illness, rapid aging and general stress on our bodies and our guts.  Palm Oil, well it’s in 50% of everything you see in a typical grocery store, and happens to be the cause for massive equatorial rain-forest destruction.

So for now…  in my home I am happy with the following fat choices.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Butter and Ghee, Coconut Oil, Chicken, Pork or Duck fat and the occasional nut or seed pressed oil (kept refrigerated).  Since there is no acceptable mayonnaise available (don’t even get me started on the travesty that is veganaise) I will make my own.  It keeps up to two weeks in the fridge and I get to make sure that the oil used is up to my personal standard.  Here’s a recipe…  you don’t really need one.  A great rule of thumb or ratio to remember is that 1 egg yolk will only support up to 1 cup of oil in emulsion…  if you break your emulsion, never fear…  start again with a new egg yolk and add your broken mixture to the new yolk.

Best hand whipped mayonnaise

2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons zuké Just Juniper brine (can substitute water)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil

If you are worried about eating raw egg yolks heat the egg yolks, lemon juice and zuké brine in a small skillet over very low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly with a spatula. At the first sign of thickening, remove the pan from the heat but continue stirring. Dip the pan bottom in a large pan of cold water to stop cooking. Scrape into a round bottomed bowl, whisk for a second or so, then let stand uncovered at least 5 minutes to cool.

If you are not afraid of raw eggs you can skip this and just whisk the above ingredients together in your round bottomed bowl until they start to pale a little and thicken a little. Add the mustard, seasoning, and cayenne if using.

Drizzle the oil in very slowly at first, down the center hole into the egg mixture whisk like a pro – facial expressions indicating concentration will only increase the excellent texture of your emulsion.  You will see the oil start to emulsify, each time your emulsion stabilizes you can add more oil. Transfer mayonnaise to a clean container and chill immediately. This will keep for at least 7 days refrigerated.

Do the above in a food processor or a blender if you are in a hurry or are wrist / whisk challenged.  Switch up oils…  I’ve had great success mixing nut oils with olive oil or adding flax seed oil to my mayo.  Add more brine or favorite vinegar to thin for a creamy salad dressing, add dill and sour cream for ranch, add worcestershire, garlic, anchovies and parmesan for Caesar, add fresh ground garlic for aioli.  Put a dash of your bomb diggidy on just about everything. 🙂


“Red” Rice- Easy Way to Get Kids to Enjoy Beets!

There is a Bhutanese red rice.  This recipe starts with plain white rice and stains it red with beets. My Daughter Kailee would never let a beet near her lips in any other way.  Red Rice is all the rage at my house these days.  Start with butter melting in a pan.  Add a full jar (you heard me!) of our Beets. Sizzle for a bit then add cooked rice. Stir over medium heat until it is all incorporated.  Add finely minced garlic and drizzle with toasted sesame oil.  We love to serve this rice with an egg on top and some sprouts or baby kales on the side.  You’ll definitely enjoy the bright red pearly grains juxstaposed with a vivid white of eggs and the greens.  It’s such an attractive plate and you can always snazz this up with another kind of protein and call it dinner.  Make this one time and I promise your family will start harassing you for more and more beets.  Enjoy 🙂

Clarifying Butter

In honor of simplicity I chose to make my own Ghee this week. I’ve often bought ghee from the store before and even though I have a middling tolerance for dairy products I seem to have no problem digesting butter or ghee.  The smell of ghee on the frying pan is simply delightful and I’ve recently enjoyed using rendered fats in my cooking, saving chicken fat from the last roast that we did inspired a round of excellent chopped liver (onions cooking in chicken fat illicit an awe inspiring drool worthy smell), and saving lard from a recent pork roast made some of the most beautifully textured oven roast potatoes.  One of these days I want to do some lard and flour baking.  That is what they would use when I was a kid to make Dan Tarts (chinese style puff pastry with egg custard), the smell of warm lard is a sure fire flashback to my youth, I am quite sure that pork fat is one of the cornerstones of traditional Cantonese cooking. There’s been much written recently on the undue vilification of saturated animal fats. All I can really add to that conversation is that I was extremely relieved to hear that fat free milk is bad for you.  I have always been drawn to fats, seared fish sends happy shivers down my spine, avocados make me smile and along with strawberries they were a very rare childhood treat (berries and avocados were very hard to find in Hong Kong in the eighties). As long as I can remember I had a deep love affair with fat.  I’m the weirdo that will cut a slab of fat off my steak and eat it first before diving into the lean meat and one time age ten when I got in trouble for fighting with my mom I went to the store and I bought her a gorgeous rib eye steak to express my deep remorse and future good will.  As far as minimally processed foods, fats and rendered fats are perfect…  butter is made of the following emulsion:  the two dissimilar substances are butterfat (roughly 80%) and water (roughly 17%) along with about 3% milk solids. The emulsion breaks on being heated and the components separate. Clarified butter is nothing more than pure butterfat. Fats will keep you full for longer, they help to balance moods, provide essential fatty acids for cell development and body processes and we cannot generate these fatty acids ourselves, they must be received from an external source.

So now that I have prayed for a sufficient amount of time at the temple of tummy I’ll post that recipe 🙂 Clarified butter is so simple to make and a superior tool to cook with as it resists high heat sauteeing and has a mellow and comforting flavour.


1lb Unsalted Butter


Melt butter on medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Skim off the first foam that forms on the butter’s surface.  Reduce heat and continue to let butter simmer.  You will see the liquids separate from the butterfat as the butter boils.  Its quite pretty – roiling and rolling globules of golden emulsified liquid. After the butter has bubbled away for about seven to ten minutes a second foam will form.  Take butter off heat and let it cool for fifteen minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth.  Make sure to stop before straining liquids at the bottom of the pan. Note, you will see those three distinct parts in separation: milk solids you skim off the top, butterfat in the middle and water settles to the bottom.

Store in a sealed glass jar.  You can keep it at room temperature for up to a month.



A word about brussels sprouts and salt

Not only do brussels sprouts come on a stalk that inspires the imagination and look like teeny tiny cabbages but they also contain many of the good things that are found in other members of the Brassicaceae family. Yes, we have pickled them (Mara made a wonderful, very spicy brussels kim chi last winter) but tonight they were cooked in brown butter and yakima applewood smoked salt. My eldest son peeled them leaf by leaf and ate them like Peter Rabbit.


These veggies are enjoying a sort of hip revival lately and I would venture a guess that they will be on many holiday tables. Try them boiled in dark beer or crispy fried in  a little grapeseed oil or ghee. Happy almost Thanksgiving y’all.

Haute Brats


Today was just one of those days. Locked the keys in the car etc. etc.  There was work and school and soccer and by the time we got to dinner we wanted it FAST. So: Brats (if you are brave enough to make your own, here is a little tutorial) buns, our Ozuké dill,caraway and fennel kraut, some pickled peppers, mustard and done. Dinner was a hit, the probiotics even out the white buns and everybody goes to bed full and happy. You can make your own mustard too- fun and easy (on a day when you don’t have much else going on.)
Homemade mustard:
* 1/4 cup yellow mustard seed
* 2 Tbsp. black or brown mustard seed, heaping
* 1/4 cup dry mustard powder
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
* 1 small onion chopped
* 1 tsp. salt
* 2 garlic gloves, minced or pressed
* 1/4 tsp. ground allspice (optional)
* 1/4 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
* 1/8 tsp. turmeric

In a small bowl, combine mustard seed and dry mustard. In a 1- to 2-quart stainless steel or nonreactive saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, on medium heat until reduced by half, 10-15 minutes. Pour the mixture into the mustard mixture. Let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours, adding additional vinegar if necessary in order to maintain enough liquid to cover seeds. Process the seeds and mixture in a blender or food processor until pureed to the texture you like –this can take at least 3 or 4 minutes. Some prefer whole seeds remaining, others a smooth paste. The mixture will continue to thicken. If it gets too thick after a few days, stir in additional vinegar. Scrape mustard into clean, dry jars; cover tightly and age at least 3 days in the refrigerator before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 -2 cups.