Experimentation of Taste

A food blog that catalogs discovery of foods available through CSA Farms Shares and other arenas and the recipes to enhance the flavors.



hi all, I am headed to the wilds of montana and idaho to go camping. Hopefully I will come back with some unique backpacking recipes for ya'll to try. Be back in 2 weeks.

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A little info about myself

I have grown up in many areas of the world. Texas (which considers itself its own place), Oklahoma, Saudi Arabia, Germany, New Hampshire, South Carolina and eventually landed me out here in the Pacific Northwest. I love this area. I hope to never leave.

My parents did a good job of training my taste buds to not be afraid of much. My mom likes to say that i thought that winter squash was ice cream and that spinach was yummy. I have gone through the culinary whims of my dad who wanted to go soy prefered in the early 80s. I remember being the only one who would drink his homemade soy milk. I also hated hamburgers till probably college. Before that time I was really into tofu burgers. I have not had one recently but I am seriously tempted to make some when I get back at the end of July.

By the time we moved overseas no food was too weird unlike my cousin who would run screaming from tuna fish sandwiches. I fell in love with Mediterranean cooking - Greek, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Arab, or Moroccan. I had little problem diving into a whole animal on a bed of rice, which is the traditional dish in Saudi Arabia.

I went to boarding school and became a stanch vegetarian, who preferred raw veggies and grains - most likely from the overcooked food and open can and dump techniques that some schools and colleges have.

After about 7 years of this I realized that I was missing out on some wonderful foods. The farm's markets in Portland, OR drew me into amazement at the choices. The varieties of mushrooms to make ragout, fresh green beans that tasted better than any that i had tasted cooked, farm fresh cheese to spread of thin crispy crackers and birch beer made to sweet perfection.

About that time I came to the realization that my health needed help. I consulted a few allergist - the first few found no problems and wanted me to come back when i was having a minor attack. I found an allergist that helped diagnose my problems but not help. They took away mushrooms and aged cheese - oh it twas a sad day. (So far it has been almost three years without these things.) After complete frustration of not getting better and being denied my loves and desires (more foods were taken from me). I quit follow doctors orders. Then I found this wonderful doctor that diagnosed me and said that I had to avoid more foods but that it would only be for a short time not indefinitely. Now after only 3 and half months with this doctor, I only have two groups of food to avoid - chocolates and mold based food (mushrooms and cheese.) I had a total of 7 or 8.

Through this time I have come to rediscover foods and stretch myself as a cook to make things i like that don't include things i used to eat all the time. I have learned to bake bread without sugar or yeast which ever is called for at the time - I started baking bread from scratch in junior high or early high school (hmmm nothing beats the smell of bread just out of the oven.) I have learned to eat my nemesis - beef. It's ok but I am picky about it still.

I love reading about food and used to sit and eat breakfast or lunch as a kid with a cookbook in front of me thinking about all the grand things that i would love to eat. I still do this as an adult but i am very careful about which books come to live in my house. I just tossed a giant tome of French cooking because I have had it over 5 years and not had the desire to cook from it or use it for reference.

I am excited about showing everyone the things i have learned through trial and error (like don't ever cook yogurt for too long at too high a heat) or that I am learning because something new has come my way or I want to make something better.

Enjoy and experiment away in your kitchen

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Chinese Chard, Pak-Choi or Bok Choy? It's up to you to decide.

This week I got my share a wee bit late, so I was unable to ask my farmer Susie Kyle to identify items. The above item I identified as Chard plain simple everyday chard. Oops. My mistake. It is called Pak-Choi or to the average joe, Bok Choy. Typically used in Chow Mein.

I am also participating in the #39 Weekend Herb Blog over at Kayln's Kitchen. It is where people post recipes and other things about herbs, veggies, plants, or flowers.

Storage: Place in Plastic Bag. Use within 2-5 days. The Chinese are known to dip the leaves in boiling water and hang to dry for storage through the winter.

Uses: It has a nice mustard flavor to add to many dishes. Stir-fried, boiled, steamed or in soups, noodle and meat dishes, salads for young leaves, and pickling for larger coarser leaves.

Flavor enhancers: ginger, hoisen sauce and soy sauce

Health note: When cooked, Pak-choi has 20 calories and 144% of dv of vitamin A and 74% of dv of vitamin C.

Safety note: Don't cook cabbage in an aluminum pot, which causes a chemical reaction and alters color and flavor.

I wanted to do something interesting this time break this stereotyped veggie out of it's Chinese take out box. Can I make it more European? Why not? My veggie encyclopedia stated that its name translates into English as Chinese celery cabbage. This must be because the stalk looks like celery and its part of the cabbage family. This brought up memories of a creamy smooth celery gratin and I decided right there to make up a Pak-Choi gratin.

I doubt that soy sauce would go well in the gratin but salt and some ginger to spice things up.

Below is my very first recipe that has detailed info. My in-laws dropped by today (no the norm...they live about 7 hours away). We had left over meat dishes and this uniquely flavored delicious gratin. Everyone one loved the flavor.

Pak-Choi Gratin

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
Prep time: 30-40 min
Total time: 55 min - 1 hr 5 min

3 Tablespoons butter

3 garlic gloves (minced or grated finely)

1 shallot (minced or grated finely)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

12 oz Pak-Choi, stems cut off and sliced, leaves cut into thin ribbons

1/8 cup water

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon or to taste fresh grated ginger

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon sambal oelek (asian hot chili sauce)

1/4 cup matzo meal

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (bread crumbs with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme)

1. Heat oven to 400 F. Sauté in frying pan on Medium-High with lid 1 Tablespoon butter, garlic, shallot, and red onions until fragrant, stirring. Add Pak-Choi stems, stirring occasionally 6 min.

2. Add leaves and lower temp to medium-low after about a minute add water and cover till wilty and bright green about 4 min. Remove from heat and place in 1 qt baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese over veggies.

3. In Medium saucepan on medium heat, add cream, milk, wine, ginger, salt and pepper, sambal oelek stirring 5-10 min till you can smell ginger and the edges are starting to bubble. Pout over contents of baking dish.

4. In a small bowl, cut 2 tablespoons butter into remaining cheese, matzo, and bread crumbs. Spread over the top of the mixture. (If you would like a crunchier top add before turning on broiler.)

5. Place in oven on middle rack for 20 min. Turn broiler on till brown about 2 min or less.

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