Spring is appearing in SF in sneaky little bursts this year – a few days of gorgeous sunshine (Yay! How we’ve missed being outside!) followed by days of chilly rain (Wait, staying home is not so bad either!). But as far as I’m concerned, spring is already here and winter is just being a little lazy and clingy and not willing to let it go until next year. And let’s face it, we’ve all felt lazy and clingy at one time or another, so let’s give Mr. Winter a little break, shall we?

Besides, we don’t need good weather to deduce the arrival of spring, right? I have hard evidence in the forms of snap peas and green garlic in our veggie box from Two Small Farms. To be honest, because our CSA stops deliveries in the winter, Nathan and I are out of practice with our vegetable management skills. The other day, I opened the fridge and vegetables were practically tumbling off the shelves, threatening to crush a curious Toro who was just stopping by to check out the kibbles status of the fridge (yup, still negative).

We needed some spring cleaning (ha!) and needed it fast before next week’s veggie box threatens to jump into the fray. Whenever a vegetable purge is called for, we roll up our sleeves, chop up as much vegetables as is humanely possible, and throw them all into either a Thai curry or a vegetable biryani. You’ve probably guessed by now which recipe won this time.

We ended up with a not-very-traditional biryani because who puts beets in biryanis?! Well, we do, when we’re desperate. But guess what? They actually stained the rice into a pretty red color! Now, if only we made this closer to Chinese New Year, it would be very auspicious indeed.

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Crab-Scented Risotto

A few weeks ago, a bunch of friends from work decided to get together for CrabFest 2008. A similar event was held in 2007 and it was such a success that people kept wondering when we would hold the 2008 version. If you remember though, we had a silly oil spill here that coincided with the usual start of crab season, so us crabby folks in the Bay Area have had to wait a while before we can feast on our local crawly friends, making us extra crabby. (Ha! Oh yes, I just went there.)

If you’ve never been to a crab-eating party, what I can tell you is that the aftermath is not pretty, no matter how delicious the crabs were (and ours were quite excellent). There are crab shells everywhere and you tend to find random bits of crab meat in your hair or on your clothes. The home of the host inevitably smells like crab for a few days afterwards and let’s just say there’s a reason you don’t see many advertisements for crab-scented home fragrance.

But wait, there’s a silver (red?) lining to this crabby cloud! If you manage to leave the party with a little pile of crab shells (I like to take 3-4 of the big body pieces since no one really chews on those), you can go home and make yourself a big pot of crab stock. On a lazy night, you can cook up some somen noodles, heat some stock up, add soy sauce to taste, and have yourself a bowl of crab noodle soup for dinner. On a not-so-lazy night, you can make a crab-scented risotto like this one. Of course, you can put actual crab meat in the risotto too – just stir in cooked crab meat at the end.

(ps: Did you spot my oh-so-subtle method to make you jealous in the photo above? Ooo! Look at us! We ate at a fancy restaurant!)

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jook.jpg

Is it weird that I’ve never gotten a flu shot?

I’ve lived 30 years of my life with the explicit mission of getting poked by as little number of needles as possible and it’s done me pretty well so far. But last week, I started to wonder if I need to reconsider my stated mission. Not that I’ve kept track, but looking back, I think I have gotten the flu every time I start to see flyers about getting your flu shots. Hmm…

When I was little, every time I would get sick, my parents would make me eat giant bowls of really bland noodles in a clear soup with a few chunks of fish floating around – what I dubbed ‘sicky noodles’. Even now, when I see ‘fish soup with noodles’ on any menu, I associate it with sickliness and avoid it at all cost. (“Why not order something with taste instead??”)

Unsurprisingly, being sick makes me not want to cook. Well, not much anyway. While I still can’t bring myself to cook ‘sicky noodles’, I have started to believe in the power of jook (or congee, or rice porridge, whatever you want to call it). Jook is probably on the comfort food list of every Cantonese person — even my sister who hated jook when she was young now craves it every so often.

So last Thursday, since I was just laying on the couch feeling miserable, I decided I might as well be useful and babysit a big cauldron of jook I can have for dinner. Jook is easy but takes quite a bit of time – when you’re down with the flu, though, time is something you’ve got plenty of.

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corny risotto

Last Friday, Nathan and I randomly decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at Incanto, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. I remember the first time we tried this place out was on a Sunday night after a strenuous and stressful weekend of moving (note to self: never try to move with just a pickup truck again). We of course had no idea it was the sort of place you should make a reservation for nor that the chef is famous for his offal-ness (ha ha), so we just stuck to the more “normal” sounding stuff on the menu.

This time around, having done our research, we went all out. House-cured meats? Oh yes please. Spicy pork offal with mint and arugula? Don’t mind if I do. Head cheese? Never thought I’d say this, but yum! This is one Italian restaurant I will gladly go to again and again, since I don’t foresee myself wanting to deal with pork hearts and kidneys at home.

What can I make at home? Simple stuff like this risotto. Especially when I’m trying to use up the last bit of corn and red peppers from last week’s veggie box. That’s right – my life is always about not letting things rot.

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Yummi Maki

For a while now, every time I would open the freezer, there would be a few tubs of this pork broth I made a few months ago, taunting me to find a use for them. Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly why I had pork bones to make broth from – I guess we took the meat off for some other use? Anyway, what can you do with pork broth? I toyed around with the idea for a pork pho for a bit, but having never made regular beef pho before, I was hesitant to attempt my first pho with an alternate meat. Then, in a moment of revelation, I finally figured out where in the noodle world pork broth fits… Ramen! (duh)

Although my broth was also made from pork bones, it was much lighter and clearer than my favorite milky-white tonkotsu broth. I heated it up with the white parts of some scallions, ladled it on top of some fresh ramen, and garnished with the green parts of scallions plus a hard-boiled egg (from Devil’s Gulch Ranch – I’m currently obsessed with finding really good farm eggs). Speaking of ramen, why won’t Japanese stores sell just fresh ramen without seasoning packets?!

To go with the simplistic bowls of noodles, I made some umeshiso maki. Mine all came out pretty sad-looking with rips and tears in places, but as my mom likes to say, “It all ends up looking the same in your stomach anyway.”

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