Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ou est le faychat?

Le Faychat est a Paris!

And I am currently sickeningly full and a little buzzed. I expect this will be my state of being until Saturday, when we move on to Amsterdam. Then it's a whole new ballgame. I may check in here or there from the road, but for the most part, The Passionfruit will be on vacation for the next two weeks. But never fear, objective #1 is foods foods foods and I'll be giving a full report when I return. Until then, au revoir et bonne chance!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

that's how i tuna roll

I love a good lobster roll but two things hold me back from making them. First, I'm not Rockefeller, so I'm not buying lobster for a simple weeknight dinner. Second, that's a lot of mayo. I'm kind of stockpiling calories at the moment for my upcoming birthday dinner at Babbo tomorrow night (pasta tasting menu, hells yeah), and of course for our upcoming Paris/Amsterdam eating adventure which is finally almost upon us. So for economical reasons both of the monetary and nutritional persuasion, I offer up a lighter, tangier, fresher sort of roll - the tuna roll.

Wild yellowfin tuna steak gets a quick sear, red onion and avocado get tossed in a lime-based wasabi-spiked dressing, pile it all on a buttery brioche roll with a mound of peppery watercress, and this roll will make you completely forget that whole lobster thing. Recipe after the jump:

Serves 4

1 1-lb yellowfin tuna steak
1 ripe haas avocado, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
grated zest of 1 lime
3 tbsp fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing tuna
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp wasabi powder (optional)
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
4 brioche lobster roll buns, toasted (or hot dog buns)
bunch watercress leaves

Heat a large skillet over high heat until very hot, at least 2-3 minutes. Brush one side of the tuna steak liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay the steak on the hot skillet oiled side down and sear for 2 minutes without moving it. Brush the raw side with more oil, season with salt and pepper, turn and sear the other side for 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet to a paper towel and let rest while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Whisk together the lime juice, zest, olive oil, soy sauce, and wasabi powder. Add the onions and avocado and toss to coat. Slice the tuna steak into 1-inch cubes and toss with the salad. Mound the salad onto the toasted brioche roll, sprinkle with sesame seeds and top with a mound of watercress leaves.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

oh sweet halibut

Magical miso. Get a tub of this stuff and use it for anything and everything. Obviously, make soup. But also add a dollop to any stews or stocks for a deeper flavor. Make a salad dressing or a spread with some nutty tahini. Marinate meat. Or, a simple classic, glaze a nice piece of fish. That's what I did here, served atop a red cabbage slaw with a limey, gingery dressing. Super simple, healthy and light, perfectly refreshing for a warm summer day . The miso glaze is wonderfully sweet, tangy, salty, and complex. I kinda screwed up the pieces of fish when I flipped them, cause I'm clumsy like that, but it didn't hurt the flavor one bit. You might want to use a good nonstick skillet for this one. Recipe after the jump:


For the slaw:
1 lb red cabbage, shredded
4 medium carrots, shredded
2 tsps freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce

For the fish:
4 Alaskan halibut fillets (preferably wild), about 6 ounces each
2 tbsp yellow or white miso paste
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Slaw preparation: Combine the ginger, lime juice, sugar, mirin and soy sauce and whisk until well combined. Pour over the grated vegetables and toss well. Set aside while you prep and cook the fish.

Fish preparation: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, mirin, soy sauce, and ginger. Rinse and pat the fish dry, then brush with olive oil. Place the halibut in a hot ovenproof skillet (nonstick is probably a good idea), and sear for 4 minutes. Flip the fish and sear the opposite side for 2 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Brush liberally with the miso glaze, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until it just begins to flake. Serve the fish atop a bed of the red slaw. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

i miss...

I miss my father's fried rice.
I miss my father's scallion pancakes.
I miss my father's congee.
I miss my father's steamed fish with ginger and scallions.
I miss my father's scrambled eggs with tomatoes.
I miss my father's giant weird Asian-flavored burgers.

But mostly I miss the fact that my father made all of these things just because he knew how much I loved them.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

four quince will quickly steep themselves in syrup

J-Cat: What's a quince? Is it like a pear? Or an apple?
Faycat: Pretty much.
J-Cat: What do they look like?
Faycat: Like pears, crossed with apples...or like a carpenter.
J-Cat: Huh?
Faycat: Shakespeare. Never mind.

How else to describe it? The major difference with quinces, of course, is that you can't actually eat them raw, so they are most commonly made into jams, jellies or pastes. If you've never tasted quince, try a jam, they are fantastic with cheese. The flavor of quince is also sort of pear-like and apple-like, but with this hint of lovely florals. Those florals give off an amazing perfume even before you start to cut the fruit. They also, magically, turn sort of pinkish as they cook. Purty.

The strange thing is that the reason I decided to make some poached quince last night was because I popped into my local crappy grocery store to get some paper towels and was shocked to see a great big pile of quince in the produce section. There were also some sad sad looking ramps, so I guess this store is making a small attempt at stocking rarer foods. Anyway, I didn't have much time to plan anything elaborate, so I simply poached the quince in syrup with cinnamon and vanilla, and served it warm over ice cream. It's pretty much the easiest dessert ever, except for the whole cutting and coring the quince thing. These suckers are hard. Recipe after the jump.


3 or 4 large quince, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
4 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, split

In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, heat the water and sugar over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to come to a low boil, then remove from the heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla. Drop the quince wedges into the syrup as you prep them (they oxidize very quickly so you don't want the peeled fruit sitting out too long in the air). When all of the fruit is in the syrup, put the pot back on the burner and bring to a slow simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife easily inserts into the fruit. Serve warm with ice cream or yogurt, or let cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to a week.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

paris paris paris amsterdam amsterdam amsterdam

Repeating this mantra is the only thing holding me together right now. I need a vacation so badly, I can't believe I still have 17 days 4 hours and 48 minutes until we leave. So I'm terribly preoccupied, and terribly busy getting crap done before we jet, and terribly terrible about cooking lately. But I swear, there will be cooking this weekend, and there will be new recipes next week. Until then, I'm preoccupying myself with dreams of foie gras and terrines and moules mariniere and pankoekken and strupwafels and frites. And if anyone out there in foodie land wants to make any dining suggestions in any city, please please please do. Because let's be honest, priority #1 on vacation is the foods. I'm already compiling a rather long list of must eats that we're going to have to jam in our maws constantly in order to get through, but I'm quite certain it will all be worth it.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

who's a cooking slacker?

In my defense, I spent most of this weekend helping my dear J-Cat practice for his debut mandolin recital! Which was awesome, don't believe anything he says to the contrary. Said recital was on Sunday, and by the time we got home we were so beat and coming down from the adrenaline high that I couldn't cook anything. But never fear, I will not leave you without some entertainment. Watch, enjoy, it will change your life. And you're gonna LOVE his nuts.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

in season: ramps!

Springtime hits, ramps come back in season, NYC foodies go wild. I try to be low-key about it because really, am I such a dork that I get so crazy excited about a seasonal wild onion? Um, yeah. Sorta. I mean, it's no Meyer lemon insanity, but I do love me some ramps. And what's not to love? A little bit scallion-y, a little bit leek-y, a little bit garlic-y, it's like all great allium qualities all rolled into one tiny vegetable.

Ramps are still not the easiest thing to find in markets. They are extremely seasonal, showing up in early spring and only sticking around for a few weeks. Since it seems that the general public isn't terribly familiar with them, I guess it is not worth it for bigger grocery stores to bother stocking them. Here in the city, you can usually find them at larger greenmarkets or specialty grocers. Luckily, there is a specialty fruit and vegetable market right in my building here at work. I spied some lovely ramps the other day and almost yelped in the market.

The best thing about ramps is that they have such lovely flavor that they are best when prepared super simply. Let their flavor shine through and don't go crazy. My favorite use is with pasta. Really, my favorite use of anything is with pasta. So I grabbed those ramps and some lovely fresh peas, then went over the the Italian market for some fresh fennel sausage and fresh fettuccine. OMG. It's like my dream meal. Recipe after the jump:


3/4 pounds fresh pasta
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (if you can find one with lots of fennel, that is best)
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1/4 pound ramps, sliced into thin ribbons
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil for the pasta. When the pasta goes into the water, heat up a large skillet with the olive oil. Remove the sausage from the casing and crumble into the skillet. Brown well and set aside. When the pasta has about 4 minutes left to cook (total cook time will depend on size and shape of pasta), add the shelled peas to blanch. When pasta and peas as tender, drain well, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and peas to the skillet and toss well to coat with the oil and sausage fat. Add pasta water to moisten well and let simmer for a minute or two. At the last minute, add the ramps and the lemon zest and let the greens just wilt. Serve piping hot topped with a generous amount of grated parmesan.

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