Tuesday, April 3, 2007

America tastes

Cooking is a dynamic experience: influenced by the hand that is guiding the knife, the land that the food was grown on, the culture that the surrounds the cook. So, why do we constantly try to make it static?

I am a product of an American experience raised here, trained here, and informed by life here -- though I have also lived on two other continents and a total of ten cities around the globe. Influences, I have many but at the end of the day I perceive the food I create as modern American through and through – regardless of the Italian, Japanese, Thai or Latin flavors that offer shading to my ideas.

I have great respect and curiosity for the techniques and foods employed by every culture though I cannot be bound to their traditions – only inspired. Venture into a pizza joint in Naples and see if you can get a slice. The year I spent in Tokyo and lived on sushi (it was the easiest food to order) I never saw a California Roll. So, lets break from this need to find “authentic” foods here in this rich culinary land of ours, and realize we are all affected by desire, taste and availability. Pay homage to a cuisine by using their techniques, flavor profiles and presentation, and then go on and play freely – And, pronounce your creation as Modern American.

Almond Sauce – yields approx. 3 cups

1/4-cup sherry vinegar
1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup blanched almonds
1 garlic clove - peeled
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1-teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley leaves
1 yellow pepper – seeds and inner membrane removed
1/8-teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a blender place all ingredients, and process to smooth. Use some water to thin out the sauce as necessary.

Excellent over blanched green beans and asparagus. Or, poached fish.

Lime Drenched Black Beans - yields 6 to 8 servings

2 cups black beans - soaked 8 hours or overnight
2 inch piece ginger - sliced
1 small onion - diced
2 garlic cloves – crushed to paste
2 limes - zest and juiced
1/8 cup cider or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro - chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Drain the beans of its soaking liquid, and place them in a 2 quart pot. Cover the beans with 6 cups of water along with a have of the sliced ginger. Bring to a boil and cook until the beans are tender to the bite – approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Drain the beans discarding the pieces of ginger; reserving 11/2 cups of the cooking liquid. Return the beans along with the onion and garlic as well the reserved liquid to the pot. Simmer the beans for 15 to 20 minutes covered, and then add the zest of the lime and vinegar. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Finish the beans with the lime juice, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.

Miso Fried Chicken – yields 6 servings

1/4-cup white miso paste
2 garlic cloves crushed to paste
1-tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar 3 chicken drumsticks
3 chicken thighs - on the bone
2-cups all-purpose flour
1/4-teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2-teaspoon salt
Oil for frying

In a bowl mix together the miso paste, garlic, mustard, and vinegar. Toss the chicken in the miso mixture and allow it to sit for an hour at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Combine the flour, cayenne and salt together. Remove the chicken from the miso mixture, and dredge it in the flour. Shake off any excess flour.

Heat the oil in a large fry pan (it should be about an inch or two deep with oil) to about 350 degrees. Carefully lay the chicken in the oil, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the chicken, turning them a few times for 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer onto a towel lined baking tray, and hold in a 200-degree oven while you finish the remaining chicken. Serve immediately.

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