Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another salsa verde variation

Last month I made an Italian-style salsa verde using the season’s first field-grown local arugula (rocket) and described it on line in my Washington Post “Cooking Off the Cuff” column.

Last night, after that non-Chinese non-scallion scallion pancake, we had plain pan-fried fish - and peas, which continue to appear in our local farmers’ market. As a condiment, I made a similar salsa verde, but with a great market find: celery leaves. “Cutting celery” is a variety grown specifically for its leaves rather than its stalks. It is very powerful stuff on its own – the flavor of even a single leaf can be pretty mouth-filling, and not in an especially pleasant way. But food-processed into salsa verde it was excellent and aromatic. Even with all the anchovies and cornichons and capers and garlic and mustard and lemon juice and olive oil, its herby celery flavor sang through. Distinctive, and a great success. Surprisingly, it was very wine-friendly, perhaps more so than classic versions of this green sauce.

As other flavorful greens come my way in the course of the summer, I’ll be trying new variations. If any are worth mentioning, I’ll not fail to provide an update.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A scallion-less scallion pancake taken even further from its Chinese roots

In my Washington Post “Cooking Off the Cuff” column last week, I wrote about a Chinese-style scallion pancake made with spring garlic in place of the scallions: I said there that by tinkering with the fat/oil used to make and fry the pancake you could move it further from its Asian roots.

Here’s an example that we had with drinks earlier this evening. The dough is the same, but I brushed the rolled-out surface with olive oil rather than lard, and I seasoned it with sage and black pepper in addition to the chopped spring garlic and crunchy salt.

And of course I fried it in olive oil too; otherwise, it was the same as the pancake I describe in the column. It smelled great as it cooked (but then it did in peanut oil and lard too – it’s the aroma of caramelizing alliums is what it is), and - although it evoked a normal scallion pancake - it did indeed taste not-Chinese.

It reminded me of a crisper, flakier version of the fried dough – gnocco fritto – they serve in Emilia-Romagna with prosciutto and other cured meats. In fact, it would be a pretty good alternative to that if you wanted something crunchy and greasy to accompany a salumi platter. Though it would take pretty amazing salumi to hold their own against this treat.