Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A walk on the wild side

There seems to be no denying that summer is over. The change in the air is palpable. A walk through Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge this weekend brought the truth of the matter home. Leaves are curling up and changing color and that is the way it is.
If you are in the NY area and have an opportunity to visit and hike around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge it is well worth the visit. The view of the NYC skyline is dazzling!

This talk of the wildlife refuge has been my way of avoiding the inevitable, which is that as I was cooking the other day I came upon an amazing discovery that tasted so good I decided to improve upon it and share it with you. This evening I decided to take that recipe to the next level and as the phone rang at home and I caught up with friends and family and recovered from my first day at a new job (more about that in upcoming posts) I took a perfectly good recipe and made it into something very uninspiring and blachhhhhh! My point in all this is to say that even those of us very comfortable in the kitchen can go horribly awry and make something not so great. What can I say? I was distracted and somewhat stressed and inattentive. Cooking can be hard work and a zen-like calm is always to be strived for . My dish was edible but uninspired. I will share with you the original inspiration and explain where I went wrong.
Amanda has described our blog as catering to flexitarians, which I believe means for those who occasionally eat meat and fish. In that spirit I am including my fondness for this spicy fish condiment from the Korean supermarket H Mart in Queens. I add it to the wok to add depth and flavor. The fresh noodles shown here are thick and chewy. Very filling and satisfying.

The inspiration: I had some baby bok choy, sauteed some garlic in a wok, added the bok choy and then a big spoonful of spicy fish condiment from the koraen market. This simple preparation was so good I thought I would faint.

Next Day: Oh I am so clever I am going to make this even better: Sauteed leeks, cabbage, green beans, mustard greens- threw in the spicy fish condiment and some fresh noodles. Oh ugh. Just a big strange mess. Did not taste terrible but had no personality, nothing distinctive. oy. so sorry.

It looks colorful, but it was not at all what I was going for. In this instance mustard greens were not a good substitute for bok choy. These great ingredients tasted good none the less. Taking a risk in the kitchen can be a great learning experience.

Amanda, I could really appreciate a good glass of wine right now. Any suggestions?

Deb, your experiment really yielded some interesting results. I guess this is a perfect example of "less is more". Your elaboration on the dish was really just the addition of some seemingly perfectly well-suited veggies. It's interesting to me that the dish had more personality without these extras. Definitely a great lesson, and one which I most certainly will heed!

Last night, after I left the gym, I was  really in the mood for something healthy and simple. I had bok choy on the brain after reading Deb's post. So, I made a quick stop at the store and picked some up, in addition to some shitakes. Now, I have never cooked with bok choy and I must admit I really didn't know what to do with it in terms of cleaning it up, etc. In Chinese restaurants, I've only seen the white part of the stalk used, so I wondered about the leaves. Ultimately, I prepared a light dish that was really quite tasty. I just chopped up the bok choy (white stalk and leaves. Deb - is this they way you use it?) I sliced the shitakes and threw them under the broiler for a few minutes. I heated some oil and garlic in a saute pan. Added the bok choy and sauteed till wilted. Tossed in a little soy sauce, a touch of mirin, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. I added the broiled shitakes to the finished mix and it was surprisingly yummy! And painfully simple!

It was late, and having just had a successful workout at the gym, I opted to not have a glass of wine with my creation. But, it made me consider Deb's recipe and what might be a good choice. Her dish is "spicy", and I would imagine the fish condiment has a good amount of salt.  The heat of the dish combined with the saltiness leads me to pick a white wine with a little sweetness. As always with spicier dishes, avoid anything with high alcohol or lots of tannins. Wines with a touch of sweetness will quell the heat your tastebuds are experiencing. Sweeter wines will also work particularly well with salty foods. (don't go too sweet, though. Just a hint of sweetness will suffice) If you happen to love chocolate covered pretzels as I do, you'll understand this reasoning. The contrast when eating something sweet and salty at the same time is wonderful!

The other night, I enjoyed a bottle of Vouvray which would be perfect. Vouvray is a white wine from the Loire Valley in France and is made from Chenin Blanc. The Vigneau Chevreau Vouvray Cuvee Silex is considered dry, but my palate experienced a hint of sweetness. Just delicious, and perfectly suited to Deb's recipe. Ask your local retailer for a recommendation on a Vouvray. Another option is a German Riesling with the "Spatlese" designation. Spatlese wines are made from fully ripe grapes and is the lightest of the "late harvest wines". The grapes for Spatlese are riper than those used for "Kabinett" wines. Therefore, the wines have greater intensity than those that are designated "Kabinett". Spatlese wines typically have a touch of sweetness - they are not fully sweet. A good, basic level Spatlese to experiment with is the Peter Mertes Riesling Spatlese. An affordable choice, this particular wine can be found for around $10.


  1. Amanda- Your bok choy recipe sounds great and yes I use the whole plant: stems, leaves and all.

  2. Very cool post.
    Not only does it comfort those of us with lesser skills--that things don't always go right-- but the idea that once you get a recipe right you keep going and try it new ways.

    And Amanda, I could have used that inspiration last night as I stared at my bag of mushrooms and thought I was too lazy to deal with them!!


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