Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kajitsu, Shojin Cuisine

Kajitsu's Simmered Daikon Radish with Yuzu Red Miso

This summer in New York I was looking for a new restaurant to go to and stumbled across a write up about a new restaurant called Kajitsu. Since that first visit I have recommended it to many people all who have enjoyed it and yesterday we went back for a second visit...I look forward to my next dinner there.

The type of cuisine at Kajitsu is Shojin, which I had never heard of before. The restaurant website says, "Shojin cuisine refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism. Even though it does not use meat or fish, shojin is regarded as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, especially kaiseki, the Japanese version of haute cuisine. In its present form kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal ingredients are prepared in ways that enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully arranged on plates. All of these characteristics come from shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan."

The food appeals for so many reasons starting with the simple fact that it is vegan, clean and Japanese...but it is more than that. There is a thoughtfulness and consideration that goes into the food, the service and the presentation that exceeds most dining experiences. Plates, utensils and beverage napkins are thoughtfully chosen for each item served. Seasonal vegetables are incorporated into the meal. Even produce that is not traditionally used in Asian cuisine finds a way to fit in. At the same time there is nothing fussy about the experience.

One of the central elements of this cuisine is Fu and Nama-Fu which are made from gluten. At Kajitsu they have a beautifully printed small book that they give out upon request explaining the laborious process of making Fu. Fu is basically the gluten element of bread with the starch separated out that is then mixed with rice powder. The process is complicated but the result is smooth, chewy, satisfying and complimentary to a variety of flavors and textures.

The menu changes once a month. This is what we ate last night:

Celery Roots Tempura with Grated Apple

Vegetable Miso Soup Tofu, Shiitake, Burdock Root, Carrots, Turnip, Japanese Taro

Sticky Rice with Tea Tree Mushrooms, Umeboshi and Shiso; Kabocha Pouch with Red Beans; Grilled Sesame Tofu in a Bamboo Leaf

Simmered Daikon Radish with Yuzu Red Miso

Grilled Nama-Fu and Butternut Squash with Black Trumpet Mushroom; Leek and Fig Tempura

Hanamaki Soba Nori, Mitsuba, Wasabi

Snow Ball Mochi Matcha with Rakugan Candies by Shioyoshiken

Friday, December 25, 2009

seasons greetings and egg nog

Not so many blog posts in the last several weeks...we have have busily been cooking and flowering. Taking a moment to reflect this evening about recent projects and what we are looking forward to in the coming year...

Writing this blog and getting feedback is an enjoyable part of our everyday practice. Over the next year we plan to write more and hope to have more interaction through this forum. We encourage both sharing of information and inquiries.

It has been only about six months since we started hosting Home Restaurants... this has been a great addition. Great satisfaction comes from working with farmers that we have known for years and meeting new ones, cooking for small groups and being able to accommodate particular food needs, tasting and learning more about wine, spending time with good friends who we work with and meeting our guests and talking about food and other things. When we had our restaurant we were in the kitchen busily cooking and our interaction was solely through our food, it has been a joy to erase the boundary between the kitchen and dining room.

We are pleased that we already have dinners and a lunch booked for January, the nights of January 22 and 23 still have some spaces available. We are also thrilled that we have been asked to cook and host one of this years Alice Waters, Sunday Night Suppers scheduled for January 24.

The 2010 wedding flower calendar is starting to fill and I am excited about the variety of events that I have scheduled for the coming year. First one is a wedding in early January at 6th and I where I love to work. The anemones, tulips and ranunculus that I got for events this past week make me excited about spring flowers that are just beginning and will be at their best for the next several months. I also have some quince with buds that I hope will be open by January 7th for an event. The Dutch flowers and the recent snow have made me start to think about spring planting and our plans to expand the 1508 garden to the roof this coming year.

On December 23rd we catered a large holiday party and made eggnog. I have a recipe that was my mothers and John has his fathers recipe...we combined the two and the result is decedent and delicious. We used eggs from Path Valley Cooperative, Trickling Springs Dairy heavy cream, Homestead Creamery milk and Sazerac Rye Whiskey...resulting in the best batch ever...

Egg Nog
6 eggs separated
2 cups sugar
2 cups whiskey (we used a good quality rye this year but have also made it with bourbon and Armagnac)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup rum (optional, part of John's dads recipe)

Beat egg yolks until light yellow and then beat in the sugar until dissolved then beat in whiskey. Cover the mixture and let stand at room temperature for at least four hours.
After egg yolk mixture has rested beat egg whites to soft peak and fold into yolk mixture. Then beat heavy cream until stiff and fold into entire mixture. Mix in milk, chill and serve.

Enjoy and Happy 2010!
Sidra, John and Martin-Lane

Friday, December 18, 2009

Black Walnuts at 1508 Last Night

Photo Jacqulyn Maisonneuve
For years we have gotten Black Walnuts for the Path Valley Cooperative. The unique earthiness and slightly fermented flavor in is something we look forward to cooking with every winter. This year we have been making a black walnut "cheese" that we have used in several different dishes over the last several weeks. For the second seated course last night we layered thinly sliced scarlet turnips, small white beans, wilted chard, spaghetti squash and the black walnut cheese in a baking pan and cooked it slowly until the flavors melded. Just before serving we roasted some Oregon Chanterelles to finish off the dish. The nut cheese is made by soaking raw black walnuts for a few hours and then pureeing them in a food processor with a bit of the soaking water, some olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

We served this dish last
night for a small office holiday celebration at 1508. As guests thanked us for the evening we could not help but thank them for being such enthusiastic diners. At our Home Restaurant the interaction with our guests is less mediated than in a traditional restaurant setting. I present each course and talk about the food, where it comes from, the wine that we are pairing and the collaborative effort that results in the food. Guests wander in and out of the kitchen during the night, see us at work, and often ask questions about specific preparations and ingredients.

Our guests last night were engaged in each other, the food and the was a joy.

Below is the entire menu:


Cauliflower Puree with Oregon Black Truffle
Roasted Parsnip and Sweet Potatoes with Pumpkin Seed Puree
Seared Sea Scallop on Corncake with Chives
Roasted Chicken and Celeriac
Beef Tongue with Watermelon Radish
Grilled Brussel Sprout

Scented Geranium Infused Vodka Martini
(Abymes)Vin de Savoie 2008

Egg in the Hole with Beet Broth and Arugula Sprouts
(Vissoux) Fleurie "Les Garants" 2007

Chanterelle Cassoulet with Spaghetti Squash, Turnip, White Beans, Black Walnut and Chard
Roasted Garlic Bread
(Tissot) Arbois Chardonnay "Classique" 2007

Wreckfish with Leek, Carrot, Saffron Mashed Potatoes and Kale
Rosemary Spelt Bread
(Rossignol-Trapet) Gevrey-Chabertin 2006

Warm Applesauce
(Tissot) Cremant du Jura NV (Chard/Pinot Noir)

Orange Cake with Black Truffle Sorbet and Candied Pecans

Sesame Semolina, Chocolate Coconut, Gingersnap, Oatmeal Spice

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vegan Paradox

Photo Jacqulyn Maisonneuve

I am fairly certain that our style of cooking is informed by our eating. Taken as a whole our household's eating should be considered paradoxical. I am vegan. Martin Lane, my ten year old, has been vegan since birth. John is an omnivore some days however, unless we are cooking for others he is mostly vegan. We serve Omnivore dinners however we use no butter and cream And do serve a cheese course. Martin Lane and I will always taste an exceptional raw cheese from France. Fundamentalism is not our guide

I have been Vegetarian since I was twelve and as the years passed slowly moved toward eliminating dairy. While pregnant I read Dr. Spock's fairly mainstream "Baby and Childcare". Spock confirmed a vegan diet as the healthiest for children, John and I decided to raise Martin Lane vegan while allowing her the choice to eat what she wants whenever she wants. This is NOT religion for us. Nor is it a temporary political shift to some sort of enlightened ethics. We have no fidelity to events as such.

The issue for us more than ethics, amounts to health and our barometer for health is how we feel. This is not to say that we do not condemn factory farming or the treatment of animals as machines. It is only to say that if we let our senses guide us in a sort of 'care of the self', then we move towards family farms away from concepts like factory farming and senseless treatment of animals. Simply because the food is of higher quality, more efficient and satisfying; we eat less with a higher return.

To take this one step further: the same would go for the experience of dining with us. We could make statement upon statement about how ethically our chicken we serve at our dinners is treated, but that would make no difference if the chicken did not taste good (like chicken used to). This is only to say that the aesthetic experience does not end and begin with someone sitting down to eat. The event of eating speculates as well as lingers. How we feel the day after we eat is as important as the act of eating as well as the day before.

Aesthetics is our guide, not independent of reason, but informed by rational decision, an encounter with nutrition. To proselytize a vegan diet without the ground work of nutrition is unconscionable. To decide an ethics for others requiring rigid and dogmatic elimination of most sources of protein is inconceivable. There is theory and there is practice. We hope to share our practice with you through our blog–By no means do we mean to propose a theory for a lifestyle to anyone.

Even if we were to attempt to do so, that theory would be absolutely particular to our needs and it would be always moving, growing, aging, conflicting into a theory of parts that could only make up a paradoxical whole.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Last Night, 12/12/09 at 1508

Had a fun open night at 1508 last night. We celebrated two birthdays, one with candle the other opted for no candle. For the second time a Snuggie was gifted here at 1508. Some guests were people that we met for the first time, others close old friends, a talented photographer and party planner I often collaborate with and an old colleague we had not seen in years joined. A couple of non red meat eaters swayed us towards a rockfish main. We also served a beautiful piece of rare beef from Bev at Eco Friendly Farms as the first seated course (a sprouted quinoa salad replaced the beef for the non meat eaters). I knew I wanted to serve a black truffle sorbet for dessert and after some back and forth decided to pair it with oranges. The menu...

Seared Scallop with Roasted Beet
Roasted Chicken with Celery Root
Cauliflower Soup with Oregon Black Truffle
Roasted Sweet Potato
Saffron Mashed Potato
Roasted Parsnip with Pumpkin Seed Dip

Scented Geranium Vodka Martini

Beef Striploin with Brussel Sprouts, Sunchokes, Chives, Ginger and Garlic
(Le Roc Des Anges), Les Vielles Vignes, 2006

Chantarelle Cassoulet with Fall Squash, Chard, Turnips and Black Walnuts
(Arbois), Chardonnay Tissot, 2007

Roasted Rockfish with Corn Grits, Turnip Greens, Leeks and Carrots
(Julienas), Millesime 2006

Warm Apple Sauce
(Le Roc Des Anges), Passerille

Black Truffle Ice with Vanilla Cake and Light Chocolate Sauce
(Domaine des Aubuisieres), Vouvray Brut

Chocolate Coconut, Gingersnap, Clove Oatmeal, Sesame Semolina

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rockfish Season

We have been serving rockfish for the last couple of weeks. Choosing seafood is always complicated because both environmental and health factors have to be considered when deciding what fish to eat. We rely heavily on two websites, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oceans Alive to help stay current. Luckily we also have additional help from our fish purveyor, Jim of Prime Seafood. Jim's passion is healthy waterways and fish. He only sells fish that pass his stringent, well informed test which means that some days Jim will have only one variety of fish for sale. This is fine with us because we know that any fish we get from him is incredibly fresh, has not caused a negative environmental impact and is healthful. We are very happy to be in the middle of local rockfish season. For much of the year it is impossible to get healthful and sustainable fish that is also local. Not so long ago rockfish were over fished and their population was in danger. Fishing regulations have helped to restore the population to healthy levels.

I asked Jim to send me some additional information about the rockfish we have been enjoying this is what I got...

"Striped bass (known locally as rockfish) are available from November through March. We get ours in the lower Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, they are caught just hours before delivery to DC. After rockfish spawn (during March) the adults move out of the Bay and progressively farther up the coast each year as they get older with the largest spending the summer through fall off Long Island, Cape Cod and the inshore part of the Gulf of Maine. As winter comes on the colder waters push the rockfish back down the coast and they re-enter the Bay's major rivers such as the James, York, Rappahannock, Potomac and Susquehanna. The Chesapeake produces about 90% of the east coast's striped bass.

Rockfish spawn in the parts of these rivers just below the "fall line" (for example, Chain Bridge is at the Potomac River's fall line). They are not good jumpers like salmon so they can't get up above the fall line in each river. Their eggs need a strong current to keep them from falling to the bottom where they would be covered with sediment and where they would suffocate from lack of oxygen and die. Young rockfish spend the first 3 years of their lives in local rivers feeding on progressively larger fish (like anchovies) and invertebrates (like blue crabs) as they get older..

Rockfish are ambush predators. The adults eat squid, herring, butterfish, menhaden, eels, sand eels, blue crabs and any other small fish or invertebrates they can fit in their mouths. They taste best if they have fed primarily on squid and herring, which are abundant off New England (where the adults spend much of the year). Maximum weight is probably about 100 lbs. The ones we get weigh about 10 - 30 lbs.

The commercial and recreational fisheries are closely monitored to promote healthy population. The striped bass recovery is one of the only success stories in US fishery management."

Last week we cured rockfish and served it with a salad of brussel sprouts, jerusalem artichokes and radishes. Saturday night we plan to roast the rockfish which will result in a delicious crispy skin and moist bouncy flesh. We will serve it with corn grits, turnip greens, leeks and carrots.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Roasted Parsnips

My english friends will tell you that Parsnips are horrible things they make you eat at school. However it was in England where John learned to prepare parsnips in a way that has most people ask not only How do you cook these?, but also What are these?

If a grateful participant receiver of a root vegetable is not only asking questions of how but what as well, then the task of cook has been more than acheived.

An Englishman's way to prepare parsnips: cut them in half, remove the core and then cut them into thin strips, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, coat the parsnips lightly with grapeseed oil, season with salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar, roast them until they start to turn brown, stir them and continue roasting until they brown some more.

Of course starting with great parsnips is important. We got our parsnips last week from the Path Valley Cooperative where we get most of our produce this time of year. You can get parsnips at pretty much any farmers market right now.

Last weekend we served parsnips at both of the weekends Home Restaurants with cocktails. We placed them on a platter with a pumpkin seed roasted garlic dip.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

School Gardens

Late summer we started digging on a patch of lawn at Scott Montgomery Elementary School, around the corner from our house, to plant a pumpkin patch. The experience was exciting, back breaking and humbling.

First of all our efforts did not result in pumpkins unless you count tiny green fruit smaller than the size of a golf ball to be a pumpkin. Our meager results can be attributed to many factors but most of all the fact that we planted them too late in the season and they did not have a chance to mature.

On the positive side we spent quite a few Friday mornings with a group of pre-schoolers in the garden weeding, watering, feeding the plants coffee grinds from a local coffee shop and digging for worms. It was amazing to see that kids that were initially tentative about getting near the dirt after just a visit or two were talking about soil, why plants needed water and that it is possible to grow food in the city.

Maybe the best part of the whole experience was that when we spent time in the garden with the kids we always brought local fresh fruit which all of the kids enthusiastically ate. Confirming something that we all know, if there is access to delicious, healthful, consciously grown food kids want to eat it.

The amazing librarian at the school, Frances, has applied for grants to get a raised bed for each class in the school, we have drawings to transform the front yard into an edible garden and outdoor classroom and plans to build a community compost. Late this fall we were saddened to find that there is a possibility that Scott Montgomery Elementary School may close by next year. For the moment the plans are on hold until we find out the status of the school.

Last week a friend emailed me a link to a post from a New York Times blog that I had missed that was posted around Thanksgiving about food, schools, edible gardens...
I loved the post and was anxious to share it with anyone who had missed it like I had. Martin-Lane, our daughter immediately recognized, the author who happens to be one of her favorites, Maira Kalman. I also sent the link to the librarian at Scott Montgomery who printed it out and shared it with the kids we spent time in the garden with this past fall.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Home Restaurant Dates

Photo Jacqulyn Maisonneuve

Wanted to let you know about the available open nights for our Home Restaurant:
Saturday December 12, New Years Eve Thursday December 31, Friday January 22, Saturday February 13 and Valentines Day Sunday February 14

Winter produce from our favorite farmers includes: Chestnuts, Sunchokes, Parsnips, Asian Pears, Baby Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Micro Greens, Horseradish…From afar…both Italian and Oregon truffles.

We have been getting Eggs from Polyface Farm and Lamb from Whitmore Farms, Poussin and Beef from Eco Friendly Foods, Sustainable Seafood from Prime Seafood…Local Rockfish is now available.

We start with passing food and cocktails and then move to the dinner table for several courses with wines picked for each. Tom a wine importer with an incredible cellar helps us pick wines to go with each individual course to complement the food.

For reservations and information about requested donation contact me at:
Please share this email with any potentially interested diners. You can also choose a night of your own (other than the ones mentioned above) if you have a group of 10 or more.

Please advise if you have any food restrictions, vegetarians are more than welcome!

We rely heavily on farmers, a wine importer and other purveyors that we have worked with for years to source ingredients. This time of year we supplement our supplies with herbs from our garden and micro greens we are growing inside. We are committed to using best food practices.