Tuesday, May 25, 2010

catching up

It's been a little quiet around here this month.
Behind the scenes, however, things have been happening.
No thumb-twiddling here.
In fact, lists are disappearing and little things are growing into much bigger things.
The garden has its door (and fence, thank goodness!).
And the stone has been laid underneath the hose spigot.
I've even just spied a little glimpse of promises to come.
Best of all, soon I'll be among old friends in one of my favorite spots.
Maybe I'll even find some time to cook a dish or two...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

gather ye oregano while ye may...

...in bright, glowing orange buckets,
for stringing along and drying in the filtered sunlight of a kitchen window.

(I've barely made a dent in the patch)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

pho ga

May has brought with it the sun and a weekend of unusually warm (dare I say hot?) temperatures. So in the midst of this heat wave I'm making soup.
Well, because I believe in chicken soup. And if I have to be plagued by a nasty little head cold on the nicest weekend we've had in weeks, I'm going to need it. In quarts.
Begin this soup early in the day (or even the day before). Make the broth and set aside the chicken. Then just before you are ready to re-heat the broth, gather whatever condiments strike your fancy and have them at the ready for a speedy assembly. This allows for plenty of time in between to stare listlessly outside in the fog of sinus-relief pills - or - to accomplish something much more productive...

Pho Ga

(Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Chicken)
-adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet

Fetch that large cast-enamel pot from its resting spot above the stove. Rinse a 3 1/2 pound organic chicken and place it in the pot along with its neck and giblets. Add to this 3 quarts of spring water and bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat. While the stock is coming to its boil, heat a dry skillet over high heat. Peel and quarter one large yellow onion and peel a thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger. Add these to the hot skillet and allow them to char, turning periodically to blacken bits on all sides. Once the stock is boiling, add the charred onion and ginger and a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. Skim off any foam that may be accumulating, reduce the heat to gently simmer the stock, and partially cover the pot with a lid. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes more. Remove the chicken to a platter and allow to cool a bit, then remove the meat from the bones and pull apart to shred with your fingers. Set aside. Strain the broth through a cheese-cloth lined sieve into a large bowl (or another soup pot), then transfer to containers and refrigerate. Once the broth is cooled, skim off and discard (or reserve for another use) the fat that will have separated out on the top.
When ready to assemble the soup, re-heat as much broth as you like in a stock pot over medium-high heat, adding a bit of fish sauce to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon for 2 cups of broth, or 2 tablespoons for all 3 quarts - but this is all subject to taste). Cook an appropriate portion of cellophane noodles in a pot of boiling water until just translucent and softened - about 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Find a wide, deep bowl and fill it with a handful of the cooked noodles and some of the reserved chicken. Ladle over as much hot broth as desired and serve with any combination (or nothing else at all) of the following:

crispy fried shallots (thinly sliced shallots fried in hot oil and drained on a paper-towel lined plate)
dried wood ear mushrooms (reconstituted by soaking in hot water and thinly sliced)
fresh bean sprouts
charred ginger paste (a knob of ginger charred (as above) and bashed into a paste with a pinch of salt)
lime wedges
sprigs of fresh herbs (cilantro, rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro), basil, and/or mint)