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David Ross

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  1. We were driving through Southeast Washington when suddenly Marnie shouted, "look, there it is, stop the car!" Needless to say, we were all a bit stunned and thought there must have been some critter scooting across the highway. And then I saw it for the first time: asparagus. It was decades ago, but every spring I relive the memory of seeing asparagus growing for the first time. Our family had been at a horse show in Pasco, a town in the Columbia River basin in South-Central Washington. We decided to drive over to Walla Walla, the heart of Washington's asparagus fields, to visit Whitman College. Mother had graduated Whitman in 1946, and we were taking our family friend Marnie to visit campus where she would start her freshman year in the full. It was then that I fully understood why asparagus--seasonal, local asparagus--is a prized delicacy of spring. I had the idea it grew on a bush. Or maybe it grew in some sort of cluster, cloaked within a heavy blanket of outer leaves like cabbage or cauliflower. Yet there it was, one stalk at a time, bursting up through the rich soil fed by the Columbia River. Rows and rows of single stalks of asparagus standing in a perfect line. Given Mother's ties to Whitman College and Walla Walla, the role that asparagus would play in shaping our family's tastes for this special vegetable should have been easy to predict. (As an aside, Walla Walla is also the home of the "Walla Walla Sweet" onion. Mother used to tell us she loved a raw Walla Walla sweet sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise). Now I'm sure you've got your own culinary memories and favorite asparagus dishes to tempt us. So today we'll begin eG Cook-Off #77: Asparagus, the Spear of Spring. (See the complete eG Cook-Off Index here.)
  2. So simple. Just make dashi, then add as much miso as you'd like. I blanced the asparagus separately, but you could also cook it in the broth. Then just a cube of firm tofu. I thought about adding green onion or maybe a fried onion garnish, but thought it best to leave it bare to highlight the asparagus.
  3. A simple asparagus dish I did last night. I've been making a lot of miso soup in the past year. Starting with a basic dashi broth and then adding miso, I found it a quick and deeply flavorful soup that adapts really well to all sorts of additional ingredients. And while I was recovering from two orthopedic surgeries it was easy to make, yet far more satisfying than terrible frozen dinners. Last night was simply homemade dashi and some white miso. The white miso was what I had in the fridge but sometimes I use red miso. Then blanch asparagus and a square of firm tofu. Really brought out the texture and fresh flavor of the asparagus.
  4. Delicious and now I've got that on my asparagus recipe list!
  5. And I thought I couldn't get any luckier. Today this fresh WA asparagus was in the market for $ 1.46lb. Last week it was $1.79. It's been harvested about a 2-hour drive from where I live down in the Columbia Basin area that stretches from Walla Walla over to the Tri-Cities area. It's been delicious and I've never seen the price this low. But low price hasn't meant poor quality this season.
  6. Shelby I make the same salad. Sometimes I'll scatter some fried onions or bacon over the egg. Delicious.
  7. The crop of morels was very good two years ago, and fairly good last year. Up here we always go by the previous wildfire season. If the fires are especially bad, the spores travel through that hot wind and find a new home in another part of the forest. We should have asparagus into June and then it will trail off. Sometimes I'll freeze some to use in a creamed soup. I also use asparagus soup as the base for a nice pasta sauce.
  8. Going through some of my archived food photos to get some ideas on asparagus dishes, I found this forgotten gem that I crafted as a spring dish with a Pacific Northwest theme-crispy-fried oysters, asparagus and wild morels (all from our region), along with fava beans, crispy prosciutto and celery leaf. (Needed more dressing as I see it). Asparagus isn't the only main attraction here, but it sure plays a big role.
  9. This is an asparagus appetizer dish I did for Easter. Simple blanched asparagus with sliced cucumber, then some lox-style salmon. Lemon mayonnaise dressing. The little pastry in the upper right corner is a savory gougere made with parmesan and then filled with a smoked salmon mouse. Without the asparagus it would be pretty bland.
  10. Speaking about phyllo or puff pastry. I've done a sort of asparagus napoleon with layers of pastry, then a thick mayonnaise accented with tarragon, poached asparagus and off it goes with a few more layers. It's good just like that, but I've also added an herb salad on the side. I've even had a version of this type of dish at a fussy wedding reception. Well, the wedding was fussy but the asparagus was good.
  11. I have fried it but it was years ago. Did it in a tempura batter.
  12. This is another dish I found in my asparagus files that I did a few years back. And I'll do a new variation of it in the coming days for our cook-off. It shows how well asparagus pairs in a salad. I had cured some wild spring salmon gravlax style, then paired it with some dark dye croutons, shaved asparagus and tips, some chive blossoms from my garden, lemon zest and olive oil. It's a nice lunch or starter for a bigger dinner. Lox is good on its own, but the asparagus brings in that woodsy, herbal flavor. Delicious. I love a good omelet stuffed with asparagus and I'll be making a dish with asparagus, prosciutto and honeydew.
  13. I've found some good asparagus from Mexico in the supermarkets this spring, but nothing beats our local asparagus when it comes into season, yet it's just not the same as our local asparagus. Right now we're at the $1.79 per pound mark and it may go a little lower depending how the season shapes up. We're also blessed with wild morel mushrooms this time of year. Last spring I found some for $7.99 a pound, foraged wild and sold at both a grocery store and the local farmers market. Both an incredible buy for asparagus and wild mushrooms that have a short growing season in these parts.
  14. Sounds delicious!
  15. I've been going through my recipes in preparation for our celebration of all things asparagus. I thought I'd start with a Chinese-style asparagus dish. I think the first time I made it I probably surprised a few folks who typically only make steamed asparagus. They'd never imagine asparagus paired with Asian flavors. Sometimes I trim the stalks using a vegetable peeler, which makes the asparagus more tender to the bite. In this case I cut the asparagus stalks in half, giving a mix of the crunchy stalk with the inner, softer core. A quick blanch in boiling water. I usually add a few dashes of "Fruit Fresh" (basically ascorbic acid), which keeps the asparagus bright green. I don't need to pull it from the hot water and then plunge it into an ice bath to get the same effect. Then into a hot wok with some sesame oil, a spoon or two of chili, garlic, black bean sauce I buy at the Asian market, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and there we are.
  16. In January of 2016, I "retired" after 28 years of service for Horizon Air, a regional airline based in Seattle and the Sister carrier of Alaska Airlines. I put retired in quotes as it was actually the result of a corporate restructure. In any case, throughout my career I was on the inflight services department management team and for many years involved in the onboard catering. Now mind you, we were and the company is today, a regional carrier that flew primarily turbo-prop airplanes and just a few jets during my time. We didn't serve traditional hot meals in those days as our galleys weren't equipped with ovens, however, we did serve cold breakfasts, lunches and snacks and at times our food was actually better than what you'd find on other major carriers. Back when I started as a Flight Attendant in 1988, we served cold snack baskets and often ran promotions. I remember one summer when we offered a picnic basket of cold fried chicken, chips, an apple, a slice of apple pie from a bakery in Spokane and a small wide-mouth "Mickey's" beer. Well, as we know things have changed. In the time since I left, Horizon is starting to introduce a small regional jet with first class and hot meal service. The meals up front are basically the same meals one would find on Alaska Airlines first class. And while the menus read creative, like Southwestern scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa and corn tortillas, we all know what reads delicious on an airline print menu isn't always what ends up on your tray table. So let's have some fun here at eGullet and start a discussion of airline meals. Share your stories of grand meals from back in the decades when you looked forward to airline travel, especially the meal. (And I remember many a fine steak dinner served in coach on both Delta and United back in the 70's into the 80's). And are you dining on fine food these days when you fly? I regularly scan through sites dedicated to frequent flyers and I'm often impressed by the photos of first class meals on international long-haul routes served by Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, ANA, JAL and Swiss Airlines to name a few. (And while Delta is improving on that front in their business class cabin internationally, United is trying with their new Polaris business product, American seems to lag behind). Coach class throughout the world is of course a different story. So I'll be working in the coming months on going through some of my archives to show you some of the things we served on the little regional carrier up in the Pacific Northwest.
  17. eG Cook-Off #72: Ramen

    How many noodles does it take to make soup? Instant Ramen Noodles that is. As we’re about to find out, Ramen is much more than a “Cup O’Noodles.” Today, we launch a new adventure in our revered eG Cook-Off Series with eG Cook-Off #72: Ramen. The history of Ramen is somewhat sketchy, but it appears as though it was a creation of the Chinese—a bowl of fresh wheat noodles in a hot broth garnished with a few pieces of leftover meat and a sprinkling of chopped vegetables. The dish crossed the sea and Ramen stalls began to show up in Japan by 1900, often serving as a cheap, quick lunch for the working class. Ramen grew in popularity in Japan and eventually made its way to the United States, joining other quick and convenient culinary inventions gaining popularity in America like frozen TV dinners, frozen pizza, Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti and ravioli and Lipton’s dried noodle soup mixes. Today, America sates its appetite for instant ramen noodles to the tune of nearly 5 billion of the disposable cups every year. Yet, we like to play with our food these days and manipulate it into something mass-produced in a factory to the point where it has no resemblance to its namesake. When it comes to ramen, we’ve allowed convenience and 39 cent cups of noodles to satisfy our salty, contemporary tastes. And how. Americans have been slurping through instant noodles for decades without stopping to uncover the real story of ramen. I count myself, (not too proudly), as one of millions of college students who stashed cups of instant ramen noodles in dorm rooms--a quick snack after a late-night round of studying, (or partying). As I scanned the shelves of a local Asian market this morning, I counted over 200 different varieties and brands of what most of us (in other words me), associate as Ramen. There were packets and bowls of Shin Black Ramen, Japanese Shio, Bean and Jin Ramen, Shrimp, Clam and Spicy Seafood Flavor and “Fun and Yum” Ramen. But I also discovered that not all instant noodles are labeled ramen. There were Kimchi, Pad Thai and Tom Yum noodle cups. There was Japanese Curry flavor, Spicy Miso and “Sobai” dried noodles in single packs, 5 packs and the popular case size—literally a packing box full of instant noodles for just a few bucks. True Ramen is much more than dried noodles and powdered flavorings. Rooted in Japanese cuisine, Ramen embraces a deeply satisfying, herbal, mysterious, earthly-scented, steaming broth paired with silky, soft noodles, hearty meats and seafood and fresh, crisp vegetables. It is, as they say, a perfect bowl. Ramen is all the rage in restaurants and home kitchens alike right now, and while staying true to the classic foundations of the dish, all manner of delicious variations of Ramen are being crafted with beef tongue, lamb hocks, bottarga and salted broccoli. Ramen has even made its way into motion pictures, (The Ramen Girl, 2008), showcasing how this common dish in its truest form bonds people together. Please join me in exposing the delicious depths of ramen. We’ll debate the similarities and differences between “Ramen” and “Soba,” and we’ll present our own personal Ramen creations. Slurping is encouraged. See our complete Cook-Off Index here: https://forums.egullet.org/topic/143994-egullet-recipe-cook-off-index/
  18. I was just talking to one of my former employees and her kids, age 3, 5 and 9 all love rhubarb which is wonderful.
  19. The Bread Topic (2016-)

    Been making pretzel rolls for about 6 months and I'm getting fairly good at it. Now these taste delicious, but they got a bit out of hand in terms of size. I was planning on making them for hamburger buns, but I got them too big. And then when I dipped them in the hot water/baking soda mix, they grew. Then they grew again during baking. Too big for my burger tastes, but I'm quite sure they'll be good with butter or mustard. Or just the way they are.
  20. Part of my annual rhubarb celebration. This time, what I call a "Rhubarb Pot Pie." Poached rhubarb with a bit of flour, butter, sugar and tiny dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then into individual crocks and topped with puff pastry. Forgot the egg wash this time and did melted butter on the top, so it isn't as golden as I'd like, but it didn't affect the wonderful rhubarb flavor. I grew up in Oregon in the Williamette Valley and we always celebrated the rhubarb season. It fell out of favor a bit over the years, but I think, and hope, it's being rediscovered by cooks and bakers.
  21. Dinner 2018 (Part 1)

    And after I took the pictures I realized I forgot to add the crispy fried onions--which made the dish even better!
  22. Dinner 2018 (Part 1)

    I recently finished a clean-up of my recipe files and came across some dishes that I had forgotten about. Like these little "Gougeres." It's just a basic choux pastry dough with the addition of cheese, in this case Swiss cheese. Then I filled them with a blend of cream cheese, whipped cream and Nova lox style salmon. And while we are on the cusp of fresh Washington asparagus season, it's not arrived in the markets yet so this was very delicious asparagus from Mexico. And when I want to do it up right, I always make homemade mayonnaise. Pretty delicious for a buffet or brunch.
  23. Great British Menu Season 7

    It's one of my favorites, as are two other shows you can catch on YouTube that are produced by the BBC, MasterChef the Professionals and MasterChef UK.
  24. eG Cook-Off 76: Consider the Schnitzel

    Look what I found in downtown Spokane today!
  25. eG Cook-Off 76: Consider the Schnitzel

    Consider, if you will, the Schnitzel. The national treasure of Austria, the word Schnitzel is a diminutive of the word “sniz” or “slice.” A piece of meat, pounded thin, then coated in bread crumbs and fried. Traditionally served simply with slices of fresh lemon, a sprinkle of paprika and maybe a leaf or two of parsley. Dating back to about 1845, the most famous of the schnitzels is the Wienerschnitzel (the Swiss break it into two words-Wiener Schnitzel), always made with veal. But the Wienerschnitzel we are discussing must not, in any way, be confused with the fast food chain "Der Wienerschnitzel", founded in California in 1971, and to this day selling "wieners" - a.k.a. hot dogs - under a pseudo-Austrian affectation. Opened in 1905 by Johann Figlmüller in the heart of Vienna, restaurant Figlmüller Wollzeile has been known as the “Home of the Schnitzel.” Serving massive portions of schnitzel draped over plates and served with a side of Austrian potato salad. Schnitzel isn’t always made with pork. Nor is it always breaded and fried as we know it. Take the Walliser Schnitzel for example. A pork escalope with a pocket stuffed with dried apricots sautéed in white wine with ham, parsley, cheese and almonds. The Walliser schnitzel is brushed with a tangy mustard but never coated in breadcrumbs and fried in sauté pan in a shallow pool of butter. If you’ve ever trekked through the cities, towns and fairs that dot the state of Iowa, you’ve surely come across the beloved tenderloin sandwich. A large slab of thin pork, dipped, breaded and fried, then placed between a bun that covers literally a few inches of the beast. A Schnitzel sandwich if you will. Served dry, with mayonnaise, maybe a few dill pickle slices and you're tasting a slice of America's heartland. Tradition tells one that Schnitzel can also be made with mutton, chicken, pork, beef, turkey or reindeer. Today one could stretch the idea of the protein to include a “Tofu Schnitzel” perhaps topped with a spiced mixture of lentils and harissa. I happen to live in the Pacific Northwest where it is common for hunters to craft a schnitzel from venison or elk, the perfect treatment for lean wild game that doesn’t need more than a kiss of the hot skillet to get crispy. Now the dip and fry are constant points of the schnitzel debate. Dipped in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs is the primary technique. Or is that egg mixed with milk, or condensed milk? Is it a double-dip in the flour and egg? And do we use fresh bread crumbs, panko or bread crumbs with parmesan? Wouldn’t pork lard be the best fat for frying a pork schnitzel? Or do we use butter, shortening, canola, vegetable or olive oil? As you can see we have some work to do here. Welcome to eG Cook-Off #76 and Consider the Schnitzel. (See the complete eG Cook-Off Index here.)