Friday, May 23, 2008

Maitake Mushroom Casarecce with Parmesan & Black Pepper

I am currently reading a book called “Japanese Foods that Heal”. Kind of funny considering I just came back from China. If you are one of those people that are very conscience of what you put into your body, heard of the macrobiotic diet or are just interested in ‘food as medicine’ than you need to purchase this book. I have not been able to put it down since I’ve purchased it. If you or someone you know suffers from high cholesterol, check out the sections on Shitake, Maitake and Green Tea.

Mushrooms are one of the most miraculous foods Mother Nature has to offer. They have been revered for centuries as potent natural healers, a source of vitality (said to activate your ‘qi’ or life-force) and curing disease. We’ll start with the Shitake. Dried, this mushroom contains 25% Protein (All 8 amino acids are present). It is loaded with glutamic acid which is considered “brain food” due its “ability to stimulate neurotransmitter activity and its ability to transport potassium to the brain.” It also lowers cholesterol. “Studies with humans have shown that consuming only 3 ounces of shitake for one week can lower cholesterol by 12%.” It’s also a potent antibiotic. It kills the bad bacteria in your body, has the affect of reducing blood clots and separately, stimulates the immune system which means it makes your body produce more T-Cells. (1)

Maitake: The King of Mushrooms was considered so precious and rare in ancient Japan that it was literally worth its weight in silver. It contains up to 27% protein and like Shitake contains all the essential amino acids, is rich in vitamins and minerals (B-Vitamins, niacin, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, selenium and zinc) and in Japanese medicine is used as a tonic to strengthen the body and improve overall health. It also stimulates the liver which detoxifies your entire body. It is also used for weight loss. “A Tokyo clinic tested the effects of Maitake on over thirty overweight patients. Without making other changes in their diet, Masamori Yokota, M.D. gave patients both dried and powdered Maitake daily for 2 months. Yokota reported that Maitake is more effective than any other regimen he has ever tested…all of his patients lost weight and got nearly halfway to their optimal weight. Weight loss ranged between 11 pounds and 26 pounds; the average person lost 11-13 pounds in 2 months.” (2)

That being said, there is butter and cheese in this recipe which could tip the balance of healing factors in these mushrooms. So, subtract the butter and use more olive oil. You can subtract the cheese, but you would be making a huge mistake. Meat, I might be able to do without, take cheese away from my diet and you’re stealing my soul.


4 Dried Shitake Mushrooms or 6 Fresh
200g Maitake Mushrooms or 2 big bunches
½ Lbs Pasta (Prefably fusilli, rotini, casarecce. Not spaghetti or Angel hair)
1 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbls Butter
½ Onion diced fine
1 Cup Chx or Beef Stock/Broth*
4 Tbls Homemade Hazelnut Extract
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese
Black pepper
¼ Tspn Truffle Oil


1. Fill up the pot you’ll be cooking the pasta in with water. Add shitake’s and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Turn off the flame until you are ready to cook the pasta. Let the mushrooms soak.
2. Add the olive oil and butter into a skillet. Add the finely diced onions. Cover and cook on a low flame for 15 minutes. During this time wash and chop the maitake’s.
3. Once the onions have cooked, add the maitake’s. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add salt. Sauté for another 2 minutes or until all the juices have dried up. Add the hazelnut extract and flambé.
4. Remove the shitake’s from the water and slice thinly. Add these and the Chx/Beef stock to the mushroom/onion mixture. Reduce by half.
5. Bring Shitake water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente. Times will vary depending on the pasta you make and how fresh it is.
6. Once the pasta is done scoop it out with a slotted spoon and add to the Mushroom/Broth mixture
7. Once all the pasta has been removed bring to a rapid boil and reduce for 5 minutes
8. While the pasta water is reducing coat the pasta and mushrooms together. Turn off the flame. Season with black pepper.
9. Add 4 Tbls of Shitake/pasta water. Heat up and toss in the parmesan and truffle oil. Coat evenly and serve.
10. All that pasta water is now a mushroom stock. Freeze it for a month or keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can use it to reinforce a sauce, for a vegetable or miso soup, etc.

*If using the ‘College Inn’ or ‘Swanson’ Brand adjust the amount of salt & parmesan you add because these are heavily salted.

(1)& (2): Belleme, John & Jan. Japanese Foods that Heal. Tuttle Publishing. 2007

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pan-Seared Sable with a Carrot Miso Puree & Olive Citrus Salad

Compared to the scallop dish, this fish preparation is much quicker and the flavors really pop in your mouth. Plus it is really healthy. Black Cod or Sable or Butterfish is not a true cod but its one of the most delicious fishes I have ever tasted when fresh. This is because of all the Omega-3 fatty acids in it.

Miso is one of the healthiest foods you can eat and is an essential part of the macrobiotic diet. If your local grocery does not carry it ask them to or buy it online. I’ll tout more pro-miso propaganda in upcoming recipes. Enjoy.

1.5 Lbs Halibut or Sable/Black Cod (serves 3 or 4 small portions)
Salt & Pepper

1 Carrot
1 ½ Tbls of Blonde Miso
½ Tbls Tamari or Soy sauce to taste
1 Tspn Sesame Oil

½ Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives, chopped coarsely
1 Orange, supreme

Citrus Dressing:
3 Tbls Orange Juice
2 Tbls Lemon Juice
1/8 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper


Carrot Puree
1. Bring salted water to a boil. Add the carrot and cook until tender.
2. In a food processor or blender, add the carrot, miso, sesame oil and soy sauce. Puree. I added some of the water that I boiled the carrot in to make the puree more viscous. I added a drop or two more of the sesame oil as well. Trust your palate here and it get it to where you think it tastes good. Miso is a powerful flavoring agent so be careful if you add more of this. Set aside the puree and keep warm.

1. Dice up the olives and reserve.
2. Supreme the orange. Follow the link for a demonstration. Reserve.
3. Wash the arugula. Dry and reserve.
4. Dressing: Add the citrus to a mixing bowl and in a slow steady stream whisk in the olive oil. Add 2 large pinches of salt and taste. Salt enhances the citrus flavor so don’t be afraid of adding more salt to develop a stronger citrus flavor. Add pepper to your taste.
5. Add the olives & oranges to the arugula but do NOT dress yet.

1. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Leave the skin on. With a sharp knife make 3 scouring slices across the skin. This is important because the fish will contract into a horseshoe when you apply heat and it will cook unevenly.
2. Bring vegetable oil to almost smoking point. There should be a heat-haze coming off the pan. Season the top and bottom of the fish and place in the pan. Beware of spitting oil.
3. The fish is going to contract a little so with a flat spatula apply pressure to the top of the fish for appx. 30 seconds. Lower the flame to medium. As the fish cooks you will notice that the rawness gives way to a cooked white color that creeps up to the top of the fish. Once that cooked-white color is ¾ the way up the fish, flip it. The skin should be a beautiful brown not burnt. If it did burn don’t worry the fish isn’t ruined.
4. Cook the fish on the flipped side for 30 seconds. No longer.

1. If you have a helper, once the fish is halfway done have the helper dress the salad and warm up the carrot puree either in a microwave or in a skillet.
2. Place the dressed salad on a plate, the fish on top and spread the carrot/miso on top of the fish. Devour.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mixology Pt. 1

Lillet has recently regained popularity in the New York bartending scene probably because of "Casino Royale". Its featured at "PDT" a speakeasy-esque bar in a N'awlins incarnation, "Marlow & Sons" as the 'White Manhattan' and similar cocktail venues. Inspired by the resurgence of an apertif wine as a mixer here are a few cocktails you can whip up with ease. The count measure refers to a one second pour out of the spout of the nozzled pour device that you may have noticed on the top of all liqour bottles at your nearest watering hole. If you don't have one of these nifty devices, one fluid ounce equals a one second count.

The French Connection

4 Count on Lillet Blanc
3 Count on Ketel One Vodka
2 Count on Cointreau
3 Tbls of Pom Pomegranate Juice
½ Lemon Squeezed
3 Mint Leaves

1. Combine all the ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and do the “White Man Shuffle” with more voracity than these two could ever muster. Strain. Voile!

Gettin’ Lillet’d

4 count on Lillet Blanc
2 count on Ketel
2 count on Cointreau
½ Lemon Squeezed
½ Orange Squeezed

1. Indulge in the previous step.

A brief word on Beets

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…The beet is a melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…” -Tom Robbins, “Jitterbug Perfume”

Nutritionally there are few veggies as good for you as the beet. Beets are high in Folate, which is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells. They are also loaded with Vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidants. The beet is also high in betaine which is a nutrient that plays an important role in the health of the cardiovascular system. The beet because of these reasons has been described as a ‘panacea’ which plays a part in the secret to immortality in “Jitterbug Perfume”. Eat the beet.

Beet Gratin

This dish was a challenge. I wanted a dish to appeal to anyone who has celiac or is required to be on a gluten and dairy free diet. Gluten and dairy free meals are hard to come by and even harder to make well. Coming from a French culinary background I don’t feel the need to expound on their indulgent use of cream, butter and cheese. Whenever a dish wasn’t tasty enough, the “French Fix” was employed; a heavy wallop of butter and or cream into any soup, sauce, risotto, polenta etc. It was effective but there are other ways of coaxing out good flavors from food than just adding fat. Thus my Beet Gratin.

1 Bunch of Large Beets (3 pieces) or 2 Bunches of Small (6 Pieces)
450 Ml Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1 Nub of Ginger appx 1” in diameter
¼ cup of Onions, diced fine
1/2 Cup Whole Almonds
4 Tbls of Tahini
1 Cup Vegetable Stock*
1 Tbls Lemon juice
½ Tspn sriracha
Salt & Pepper to taste

*Vegetable Stock

Vitamins B & C are water soluble, which means that when you boil/steam vegetables as a cooking method you lose the nutrients thus the reason to eat them. Steaming is better but you still lose the vitamins. Vitamins are quicker to absorb into your body in a liquid fashion anyway so save the water that you cook all vegetables in. Boiling beets for this recipe? Reserve some of the juices (careful of the dirt). Boiling carrots for a puree? Or steaming broccoli? Save it all add a bay leaf, ½ Tbls of whole peppercorns and ½ Tbls of Coriander seeds boil it again for 20 minutes and use it to add depth to a soup or stir fry. Freeze it for a later use.

1. Boil beets in salted water until a knife pierces them easily (about 30 minutes depending on the size of the beet).
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. While the beets are boiling, dice up the ginger and onion fine and place in a skillet on med-high heat with orange juice. Reduce by half.
4. Add vegetable stock and reduce that by half.
5. Toast the almonds in a skillet without any oil. Allow them to cool in a bowl. Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss so it coats them evenly. Chop and set aside.
6. Once the vegetable/orange/ginger mixture is reduced, place it in a blender with tahini and lemon juice. Be mindful when blending hot liquids.
7. Run the beets under cold water when they are finished to stop the cooking. When they are cool enough to handle, slice into ½ cm rounds or thereabouts. Layer them in a small baking pan (I used an 8x8 pan). After the first layer is set, drizzle the tahini/orange mixture over the beets. Continue this procedure one more time or until there are 2 or 3 layers depending on the amount of beets you have.
8. Bake for 20 minutes and top the gratin with the chopped almonds.