What I’m Reading Today

I’ve had a crazy week and am thrilled my Wednesday is here.  Keep on the lookout for my new Chow.com video on making crepes.  And, don’t forget to join my fan page on Facebook (Jodi Liano).  My students are taking some fantastic photos in class so you can check out what we’re doing.  If you can’t make it to Tante Marie’s in person, the page let’s you do it vicariously.  Enjoy!

With asparagus so abundant at the market these days, I’m rarely shopping without a bundle or two in my cart.  My go-to method is a simple high-heat oven roast with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I always watch those spears carefully as overcooked asparagus is one of my least favorite things-limp, slimy, blech!  In today’s New York Times Melissa Clark explores another method for getting the veggie just right– steaming in parchment packets (what the French call “en papillote”).  The bundles are made up of asparagus spears, herbs, mushrooms, and prosciutto, drizzled with olive oil, then tightly wrapped and baked for ONE HOUR at 200 degrees. I know, it sounds crazy but she claims (and I for one trust whatever Melissa claims!) that the slow method creates asparagus perfection and infuses the herbs and prosciutto into every bite.  Remember, Baked Asparagus with Shitake, Prosciutto, and Couscous may feel like it takes a long time but it is largely unattended cooking. Wrap it up, pop it in the oven, and put your feet up with a big glass of wine.  Before you know it dinner will be ready!
Spending time in Thailand last year made me love the food of Southeast Asia even more than I did before.  The constant balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet makes every meal a pleasure to eat.  I also love how the dishes vary so much in temperature and texture, particularly the ever present salads.  In today’s Washington Post there is a recipe for a Vietnamese Chicken Salad that is as healthy as it is simple.  The nuoc cham, or seasoned fish sauce, is key to giving this salad its distinct flavor.  Fish sauce is the “salt” ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking, much like soy is used in China and Japan.  
Made from fermented anchovies, to say it is pungent is putting it mildly.  Mixed with lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chilies it makes nuoc cham, a staple condiment that not only provides the dressing base for this salad but can be used for other things as well.  I love it drizzled over fish, as a dip for veggies, or as a marinade for flank steak.  It keeps for several days in the fridge so have a batch on hand and the salad will come together in minutes.
Looking like pale creamy carrots, parsnips are root veggies that seem to be finally having their day.  I never ate them growing up so as an adult I love experimenting with different ways of cooking parsnips.  They have a texture that is a cross between a carrot and a potato and a light, almost herbacious flavor.  They’re full of potassium and fiber too, meaning we should all add a few to our menus each week.  When roasted they caramelize beautifully and become sweet and lovely.   I saw the recipe for Spring Parsnip Fritters with Horseradish Cream in today’s Seattle Times and I knew it was a keeper.  Much like potato pancakes, these pan fried fritters are made with grated parsnips, egg, and a bit of flour.  While they would be a great side to your next Sunday dinner, I like the idea of making them silver dollar size and serving them as appetizers.  Horseradish cream and maybe even a bit of smoked trout on top, mmmm.
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.
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One Response to What I’m Reading Today

  1. Amelia PS says:

    can't wait to see your video on Chow! how exciting.
    Asparagus are great. My favorite way is “alla Milanese” (steamed then topped with a fried egg – loose, so you can dip in it – and grated Parmesan cheese).

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