Turkey, Swiss, and Mint Salad

Today at the grocery store I started imagining a cobb-style salad for lunch so I had the deli cut me monster-thick (1/2″) slices of turkey breast and Swiss cheese.

At home I realized I had a big bunch of fresh mint, and momentarily considered taking it in an Asian direction, but I’d already cubed my meat and cheese and I decided to take the challenge; incorporate mint without going Vietnamese. Bring it on.

Into the salad bowl went my cubed meat and cheese, chopped romaine hearts, diced red onion, and fresh mint leaves. For the dressing I poured a little flaxseed oil into a bowl (about 1 tbsp.), added stone ground mustard (1 tsp), lemon juice (1 tsp.) salt, pepper, and whisked to emulsify.

Then over the salad for a quick toss, into the bowl with ground pepper and a mint sprig as a warning: An exciting twist awaits you!


Foraged Mushroom Pizza

Over Thanksgiving weekend I joined a few friends in a remote Washington town for a mushroom foraging hikes. We found a ton of mushrooms, but very few we could safely identify. Among them, chantrelle, boletus, and oyster. Nothing makes a tasty dinner like free, hand-collected forest goodies!

 Rummaging in the woods with an expert is a fun way to learn.

Don’t eat anything you can’t safely identify. And wash up afterwords!

My-My-My Mai Tai

Mixologists and tiki bums can argue endlessly over the origins and history of the controversial Mai Tai. With two contending claims for invention, and nearly a century of tinkering (and bastardization), it’s hard to define the right way to make one.

Most people hear Mai Tai and think of a cheap, disgusting Kool-Aid version that dominates hotel bars and beaches around the world. The drink, done well, actually has a very powerful range of flavor, and should be quite strong. Think of sailors on shore leave, looking for trouble. A memorable bar on Oahu will not serve more than two rounds, for liability reasons.

The commonly agreed “original” recipe by Trader Vic (from 1944) is a very simple combination of rum, lime, orgeat, and sugar syrup, designed to showcase a rare, special rum. It has no pineapple or orange, and with fewer flavors it is a very delicate balance of sour/sweet/boozy. I myself have a hard time striking the right vibe with Trader Vic’s recipe, and only very staunch mixologists will adhere religiously to this approach. Even Trader Vic’s restaurants now use pre-bottled mixes that veer away from this purist’s pursuit.

Another camp believe that Don the Beachcomber invented it in 1933, and his ingredients are much more varied (and obscure.. Falernum anyone?). It’s a more complex drink, and a little impractical for the amateur bartender.

My introduction to the Mai Tai happened at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki a few years back, and many memorable evenings at their beachfront Mai Tai bar have positioned their recipe as a personal favorite. So after much (joyful) experimentation, I’ve come up with my go-to, crowd-pleasing recipe, which is more or less my split between the two (and in my opinion, most similar to the Royal Hawaiian’s recipe). Still strong, still sour, but the extra juice broadens the flavors (and nullifies the addition of extra sugar syrup). Please forgive me, purist craft bartenders. I like what I like.

Note: I am currently in the process of experimenting with different rums, because I know I can do better than Bacardi and Meyers.. however these rums are easy to get and they work very well in this recipe. I’d love to hear any comments about stepping up my rums.

Corianton’s Mai Tai

1oz. Bacardi or any light rum
1 oz. gold rum (Mount Gay or Bacardi Gold, but not spiced)
1 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. orange liquer (Orange curacao, Triple sec, etc.)
1 tsp. Orgeat


Garnish with cherry (hopefully bing!), mint, and pineapple wedge.

Float one more oz. Meyers dark rum on top and “Okole maluna,” or, “Bottoms up!”

Best Blackberry Pie

Having done some experiments on whether cornstarch or tapioca was the best binder in a berry pie, then stumbling upon this recipe from Epicurious, I now have an answer. BOTH! I do still, however, use my own custom crust recipe whenever making pies or tarts. It’s buttery, flaky, and comes out perfect every time.

1 3/4 c. flour (I prefer to measure 8.5 oz. on a digital scale)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt (slightly heaped)
1.5 sticks of cold butter, cut into 16ths (cubes)
4 tbsp. cold water

Swirl dry ingredients in a food processor (I am personally devoted to this model). Prepare icewater by putting ice and a little water into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (this gets it much colder than just a glass of icewater. Then add cubed butter and pulse until a coarse meal texture is attained (pea size hunks). Then measure 4 tbsp. of ice water into the processor, pulsing a few times after each tablespoon. At this point you need to watch the texture, and continue pulsing until the dough starts to clump and look like it wants to bind together into a cohesive mass. At this point, turn out onto Saran Wrap and shape into a tight puck. Refridgerate at least a half hour. Overnight is good if possible.

Before rolling dough, remove from fridge and set on counter about 20-30 minutes. Multiply all ingredients by two for a double crust pie (shown).

Raw Corn & Bean Sprout Salad

I must admit, I’m getting a little obsessed with raw food lately. I love the idea that uncooked fruits and veggies could be profoundly more nutritious, and so I’m having a good time exploring meals that lean heavily (or completely) on the raw side. My other new hobby is sprouting, due to a similar fascination with the idea of a whole plant’s nutrition packed into one sprouted seed or bean. This salad combines the two, and came about because I had heaps of fresh farmer’s market corn and some sprouted lentils. If you’re unsure of whether raw corn sounds good or not, read this love letter from Slash Food.

Fresh corn (2 ears)
Sprouted lentils (about a cup)
diced cucumber
pickled green beans
salt-cured olives
sunflower seeds
cilantro, minced  

1/2 clove garlic
pinch kosher salt
olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
juice of 1/2 lime
ground black pepper

First, shuck, carve, dice, etc.. all the salad parts into a bowl. Then smash half a garlic clove (or a whole clove if small), finely dice, sprinkle with kosher salt, and smear repeatedly with the side of a 10″ chef’s knife. The process is described nicely here at www.thegarumfactory.net.

Mince the garlic with the “smash and smear” technique – you smash the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife, sprinkle it with salt, then smear everything together by drawing the edge of the angled blade across the ingredients. The edges of the salt crystals physically break down the garlic as well as chemically softening the garlic cell walls. After a good smash and smear mincing is effortless.

Put the ‘smeared’ garlic into a small jar with lime, olive oil, and pepper, and give a good shake. Dress the salad, and voila! This salad could take a lot of directions, Greek, Asian, Mexican… play with different herbs and spices and see what you like.

Keith’s Favorite Grilled Tofu

My man isn’t the biggest fan of tofu. He’s more of a steak and bacon kinda guy. But when I busted out these Asian tofu skewers last night he was delighted with the complex flavor and interesting textures (grilling makes a world of difference).

Here’s what you need:
Firm tofu
fish sauce
Kekap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
chili oil
Rice vinegar
black pepper

Press tofu with paper towel, cut into long ‘fingers’ and toss with the above ingredients. Let marinate for an hour or so. Skewer bricks and grill, adding sauce mid-way and drizzling final sauce over finished skewers.

I served mine over rice noodles, lettuce, mint, basil, shredded carrot, julienned cucumber, and topped with Nuoc Cham.

Mozzarrella & Mango Breakfast

In the South of France I had a hotel breakfast that consisted of fresh ricotta, toast, and jam, and it was one of the best ways I've ever started a day. This morning I had some fresh mango already cut up in the fridge, and a few small chunks of mozzarella buffalo eager to be eaten, and it struck me. A fruit and cheese crostini sort of toast thing. I sliced the cheese and fruit up to similar medallion sizes and tossed them with olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper, and piled it onto a whole grain toast. The creamy mozzarella and the tangy tart mango was a miracle combo. Held together by the oil and elevated with the basil, this is a breakfast I can't wait to repeat.

The Hemingway Daquiri

This is one of my favorite cocktails. It’s sophisticated *and* a crowd pleaser. I cut the sugar out of my version which looks a little something like this:

2 oz white rum
1 oz lime juice
1 oz grapefruit juice
1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur

I shake and strain, then serve up with a thick grapefruit twist. No skinny, girly twists here at Maison du Men.

And for an interesting little story about the origins of this drink read this. Sounds like something I’ve done before, sat with a bartender and asked them to tinker with a recipe, until it was to my taste. Here’s to Hemingway the dreamboat, and Hemingway the cocktail.

Best. Smoothie. Ever.

I’ve been experimenting with peanut butter in my smoothies, which certainly adds protein but also knocks the fillingness-factor from “snack” up to the “breakfast” zone. But what about getting you greens? What about fiber? Calcium? Vitamin A? Well, this morning I awoke with kale on my mind (don’t ask). So I went to my local PCC for a fresh bunch. Then something exciting happened, and it shall be known as the best smoothie ever.

1 mini banana (Thai apple-banana, or half a normal banana).
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1 c. soy milk
about 1/4 c. Greek yogurt (maybe less)
1 leaf of fresh kale, center rib removed.
1 teaspoon honey
1 scoop protein powder (optional)
a few cubes of ice

Blend and adjust quantities to taste.

I was especially dazzled by the beautiful pale green color. What is that, PMS 585?

Why you so tangy?

Since reading this Saveur article about bananas I’ve been scouring my Asian grocery stores for new varieties to experiment with. Initially I was hooked on the baby bananas because it’s really a better amount for a snack or a smoothie, and while similar in texture and flavor to the standard banana (though a little more interesting), you aren’t left with half-bananas hanging around your fruit bowl.

When my favorite White Center grocery store’s mini bananas (called Ladyfinger and Orito) were looking a little overripe I noticed a plumper version labeled “Thai banana” which turned out to be firmer, and sorta tangy, almost tart. I was intrigued and excited. Turns out (upon re-reading the Saveur article) that these are apple bananas, which I’d heard of but never identified.

I’ve been enjoying them plain, and in fruit salads. They have more density and a much more broad flavor range, including tangy tartness. They don’t peel quite as easily as the standard, bred-for-the-masses Cavendar banana, but aren’t delicious things worth the extra work?