Breakaway Cook

Turnip Soup

turnips.JPGI marvel at the ability of the purveyors at farmers’ markets to bother getting out of bed, let alone show up at the markets at dawn, on wet, freezing days like today. But I for one am ecstatic that they do. The produce and products I found this morning in San Rafael seemed to set records for quality and freshness.
I bought a lot of stuff, but the smallish red turnips and their burgeoning green tops stood out. I was seeing soup. I often made soup from these when I lived in Japan, where they were a staple at the local market, and where I learned to cook and appreciate

I started by bringing two small pots of salted water to a boil. In one went the trimmed greens (you want to pull off delicious leaves from their tough backbones, which are then tosses in to the turnipgreens.JPGcompost), the other got five medium-size turnips and a knob of sliced galangal (Thai ginger) I had sitting around. I simmered the greens for a few minutes, drained, and threw them into the blender with about a cup of 2 percent milk, and made a beautiful, golf-course-green puree, which actually looked a lot like a good bowl of matcha.
While the turnips simmered, I sauteed a roughly chopped onion in ghee (clarified butter) for a few minutes until softened, and transferred them to the blender (which I had just rinsed out). When the turnips were cooked (about 30 minutes total), they too went into the blender, along with a few cups of chicken stock and a cup of the now-pinkish boiling water.


The turnip-onion soup was then poured into one of my favorite bowls, given a dusting of umami salt (my next post will be on this amazing salt blend), a pinch of pepper, and a swirl of the green puree. It all went down like root-gold from the earth!

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Culling Down Cookbooks

billy.JPGLike many people, I have a rather large collection of cookbooks (the photo above is not it — read on). For much of my life I went through my cookbooks fairly regularly, usually sticking fairly closely to the spirit of the recipes, and sometimes even to the letter of them. But lately I find myself kind of dreading my giant wall of cookbooks when I’m looking for new ideas for dinner, and rarely consult any of them.

The reason is that it takes a while to slog through a handful of books, looking for inspiration, and, usually, seeing so many rehashes of the same dish, over and over, ad infinitum. I’ll see a recipe that intrigues me enough to make it maybe once in a hundred or even several hundred glances at recipes, and then proceed to change it so much that it hardly seems worth the bother.

A 99+ percent miss rate is not conducive to continued efforts, though I’m not planning on getting rid of all my cookbooks just yet. It’s somehow comforting to know that they’re right there. It would be odd to live without them, even though I’m a bit of a slavedriver to myself when it comes to getting full utility out of every single object I live with, or out it goes.

I like things absolutely bare stark minimum. Yet the looming, hulking wall of cookbooks is anything but that. It has somehow made the ruthless years of cutting out every single unneeded object.

I recently got some extensions for our ceramics cabinet and decided to take about 50 or so cookbooks from the wall and assign them a new home in there (see photo). They’re the 50 I’m currently browsing most, the ones that seem to get the highest rotation, not necessarily those that would make the cut if I decided to start slashing.

In future posts I’ll write in more detail about which ones WOULD make the cut. In the meantime I’m very interested in hearing about how others feel of their (what surely must be) growing cookbook collections.

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Making Matcha Salt

Here’s a quick demo on how to make my all-time favorite ingredient, matcha salt. Once you try these eggs, you’ll never go back! Matcha salt lends grassy complexity to salads (and salad dressings) and poached salmon.


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Yahoo, I'm Free!

Welcome to the all-new breakaway blog! I’ve ended my association with Yahoo. It’s now time to pop some bubbly and finally get cranking.

After a long and exhausting search for the best way to incorporate a blog into my website, it finally dawned on me: as they say in Japanese, shimpuru izu besuto (simple is best). So here it is, in good old Blogger. No endless screwing around with code, no techie headaches . . . all the more time to experiment with global flavor blasts.

I’ll be writing regularly, so I hope breakaway cooks the world over will stick around and become part of whatever this thing becomes.

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