September 2007 Archives

Spanish chorizo, cherry tomato and butter bean salad

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This week I bring you a more-ish warm salad, inspired by that Moorish London restaurant on Exmouth Market. This one's for Tara, who has abandoned me at Chez Panisse to go and work at Moro for a while. Hopefully I'll get some more yummy Spanish recipes from her as a result.

Smchorizobutterbeansalad0010_r1a.jpgAll still goes well in the restaurant kitchen. I've had good days (another soup proclaimed 'delicious' by the chef), bad days (a soup proclaimed only fit for the compost), fun days (sausage-stuffing, lemon-preserving, chicken-boning kinda days) and bizarre days (such as the day I lost my bra strap somewhere in the restaurant, lord knows how or when, but it must be there somewhere...).


mexico, spain
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Chorizo is pronounced ‘chorissoh’ or, in some parts of Spain, ‘chorithoh’, but never ‘choritzoh’, please.

It comes in all sorts of varieties in many countries around the world, notably Spain, Portugal and Mexico, but also India (Goa, due to Portuguese colonial presence), Argentina and the Philippines.

Spanish chorizo is usually, but not always, cured, and therefore edible as is, sliced.  It’s made from coarsely chopped fatty pork and flavoured with garlic and smoked paprika.  It can be hot - ‘picante’, or sweet - ‘dulce’.

Mexican chorizo, on the other hand, is a very different sausage - made from ground pork, flavoured with additional spices such as cinnamon, and importantly, requires cooking.


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Smmelonprosciuttofig0003_r1t.jpg‘Melon’ comes from the ancient Greek word for apple and other seed-containing fruits.  The Greeks called a melon a ‘melopepon’ (‘apple-gourd’), which became shortened to ‘melon’ or similar in many languages.  In Tuscany, where prosciutto with melon is a classic dish, the fruit still goes by its ancient name, ‘popone’.  A similar word is used in Romanian.  

Melons are relatives of cucumbers, squashes and gourds.  Perhaps bizarrely, a cantaloupe is more closely related to a gherkin than it is to a watermelon...

Prosciutto with melon and figs

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So, I've managed to reach Week 52, which means I must have left London a whole year ago.  To show off my new skills after a year of culinary studies in the Bay Area, I find myself now sending you a recipe that basically says, 'get some prosciutto, melon and figs and put them together on a plate.'  I have learnt more complicated stuff, honest, like boning out and stuffing whole ducks, but thought that as delicious as the ducky ballotine is, you'd be more likely to spend 20 mins throwing these three gorgeous ingredients together. 

Smmelonprosciuttofig0009.JPGFigs and melons are classic Italian pairings for prosciutto.  This dish beautifully combines the three.  It is served as an appetiser at the Chez Panisse Café during the summer when figs and melons are at the peak of their season.  For best results prepare everything at the last minute (but make sure the ingredients are at room temperature first).


california, italy
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Matt and I are in a champagne kind of mood this week, so here's a summery cocktail, suitable for garden parties, weddings, Thursday nights when you happen to have a melon on hand, etc.  It's nice, promise.

Smmelonprosecco0008.JPGThis recipe comes from David Tanis, head chef of Chez Panisse, for whom I recently made a large batch of melon puree for the restaurant guests’ aperitifs.  He didn’t call them ‘mellinis’, but that’s what they are to me.  Just make sure you get a perfectly ripe melon with sweet, juicy and fragrant orange flesh.


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Smsaffron0001.jpg‘Saffron’ comes from the Arabic ‘az-za'fran’, which in stems from a Semitic root meaning ‘to be/become yellow’.  Via the mediaeval Latin - ‘safranum’ -  the name spread to almost all European languages and many non European ones also.  The word is recognisable in Hindi, Amharic, Finnish, Japanese, Hebrew and even Basque, to name but a few. 

Saffron is the dried stigma of a particular autumn flowering crocus, which was probably first cultivated in the Bronze Age in or near Greece.

Bouillabaisse-marinated prawns with saffron aïoli

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Apologies for the two week interval.  It turns out a) restaurant work takes up almost all one's waking hours, and b) there are a load of cool (some might say nerdy) saffron facts.   So, finally, here's a tasty and delicious party snack, complete with absolutely fascinating saffron information with which to impress your guests.  I developed this recipe while dreaming up hors d’oeuvres for my father-in-law’s 70th birthday party last month.  I like bouillabaisse and I like prawns.  It was as simple as that.

Smbouillabaisseprawns0001.jpgAll is still going well at Chez Panisse.  Having not ruined any dishes yet, they are bravely letting me stay on a while longer, which is fantastic.  In the last two weeks I have cut up a few more animals and there are still some lambs and pigs hanging in the 'walk-in' waiting to be butchered.  I've also been filmed slicing potatoes on a mandolin for 'Good Morning America', whatever that is.  (Never have I concentrated so hard on not cutting off a finger.)  And I've made a selection of soups, one of which was described as 'very nice' by the chef, which made my week, if not my whole month. 

Chez Panisse always uses what's in season, so we're mainly cooking with tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, aubergines, peppers, figs, chanterelles, courgettes and beautiful fresh cannellini, cranberry, butter beans and the like.  I'm learning loads of new dishes, some of which I hope to write up for you one day when I'm not either sleeping or peeling onions.


Culinary Anthropologist