Sunday, October 29, 2006

A bit of a Stretch - WHB

First off, just to state the obvious, I am not a young lady, never was a young lady, and therefore have nary a clue as to what that all entails. You could probably take the sum total of my knowledge of what being a young lady could possibly mean and pack it easily, with room to spare, in a fairly small thimble. So, there is room to stretch here.

Bear with me, this will eventually be about food. Mustard spinach and pineapple guavas, if you can believe it!

I came to this rather self-evident contemplation as I stood outside, off to the side so as not to attract undue attention, with TeenGirl, as she waited for her ‘crew’ to show up and take her to a dinner and then a formal dance. The ‘Homecoming Prom’, as it known.

As a boy, such an event typically involves the excruciating anxiety of asking some girl to the dance. This is followed by a long period of doing nothing. Maybe watching football on TV, snacking, video games, etc.. Until 20 minutes before the event. When a quick shower (no shaving necessary at this tender age), application of an overdose of cologne, and the donning of some wrinkled clothes and black tennis shoes pulled out of the back of the closet, executed in rapid succession, constitute the sum total of the pre-dance preparation. Mom might stuff a floral corsage (which she took the initiative to remember to buy) into the hand on the way out the door, dad might offer some vague warnings about driving and sex, otherwise it’s time to party!

As I found out this week, the girl’s side is a bit more time consuming. Beginning more than a week before the event. Dresses. Shoes. Purses. Wraps. Hair. Face. Jesus. There seems to be no end to the details. Which have to be discussed for endless hours over the phone or per text messages. Thank God the dress didn’t have to be adjusted somehow. Hair has to be trimmed / colored / moisturized / who knows what all. I spent an hour watching a professional Clinique make-up person transform a little girl into the cover shot of some teen magazine (something between awe-inspiring and terrifying). Ten pairs of shoes left in the final round to choose from. Three wraps. An assortment of necklaces. Finally, after an unbelievable amount of preparation, none of which involved watching football or eating pizza, some incarnation of a fairy princess was ready for the ball. I was exhausted. I was glad someone finally showed up and drove her off so I could collapse and watch some football! Since at this stage it seems to be more an amorphous group of young people than any particular paring, I was not so worried about the evening.

Of course, as it turns out, at the actual dance, shoes, wraps, purses, necklaces and corsages are all discarded during the shoulder to shoulder pulsating to the dance music. The ever increasing temperature of the gymnasium does a job on the makeup and hair as well.

And the thing that struck me, while standing outside observing these tennis shoe clad young men in wrinkled blazers and shaggy hair chatting with these transformed fairy princesses, is that this is really a lot like much of the dishes I prepare day after day. (How’s that for a stretch?!)

Isn’t it the case that some dishes seem to require the most tedious of procedures, tons of time, a huge number of delicate steps, to coax the exquisite flavors and colors out of the combination of ingredients? While other dishes are, in comparison, practically slammed together, ingredients barely transformed from their original state, flavorings added with abandon as the concept of ‘too much’ does not apply, the appeal being the earthy and full-bodied tastes and textures of the ingredients themselves?

Who hasn’t fretted over a delicate soufflé, or maybe some dish that requires multiple individual components, sauces, purees, braised items and some tricky garnishes coming together at the end, along with planning and procurement that stretches out over days? Hoping to achieve that lightness, that fusion of elements, which bring diners to culinary ecstasy? I can get just as excited over a beefy chili, redolent with almost too much garlic and enough chili peppers to take the top coating off the tongue.

Both elicit ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ and prodigious praise if executed well. And of course, both are ripped to shreds shortly after their presentation in the process of the actual dinner.

And this has to do with WHB how? Well, I said it would be a stretch!

This week, we were able to get to our farmer’s market for the first time in a month. And promptly found two things we had never seen before. Mustard spinach, also known as Japanese spinach, and pineapple guavas.

I was told that the mustard spinach is best cooked somehow, and I immediately thought of a frittata for Sunday breakfast. For this edition of , sponsored this week by Fiber of .

The mustard spinach is somewhat hardier than ‘regular’ spinach, with thicker stems and leaves. This is a characteristic that I liked, as it held up much better to cooking. Instead of dissolving to a tiny pile of limp, soggy goo, the mustard spinach retained a lot of its volume and shape during a quick sauté with onion and red pepper. It also did not release nearly as much water as I would have expected, and lent itself very well to a frittata. Too much water here would have ruined the texture of the result.

And it had flavor. My main complaint with spinach is its lack of flavor. I much prefer chard, of beet greens, to spinach, especially when cooking.

But the mustard spinach delivered on flavor as well. Nothing overpowering. Delicate. But definitely there. It gave the basic frittata a very nice flavor and texture.

The pineapple guava became part of the fall fruit platter. When people mention fall fruit, most likely think of pears and apples. But persimmons, guavas, pomegranates, grapes, and many other fruits are at their peak now as well.

The inner fruit of the pineapple guava delivered the expected subtly sweet guava flavor with a very light pineapple note. Very nice. The entire pineapple guava fruit is edible, however, with the peel adding a distinctive sour bite. Eaten as a whole, it tastes sort of like a Starburst candy – sweet and tart in the same bite.

Taken together, these discoveries made for a very flavorful meal!

Mustard Spinach Frittata
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

1 onion, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
a large bunch mustard spinach (consisted of about 8 individual plants), washed well, left wet, chopped roughly
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of mace
pinch of allspice
salt, pepper
8 eggs
½ cup milk
2 cups grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Sautee the onion and red pepper in olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan. When softened, add garlic, and sauté for a few minutes. Add the spinach to the pan, toss, and cover with a large lid. Sautee the spinach, stirring frequently, until it is softened. Remove the lid, increase the heat, and let any liquid evaporate. Add the spices and salt and pepper, and toss well.

Reduce the heat to low.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and 2/3 of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the vegetables. Cover the pan with a large lid, and cook over medium low heat without stirring until bubbles form across the entire surface of the frittata. Remove the lid, sprinkle the top of the frittata with the remaining grated cheese, and place the entire pan under the broiler. Broil until the top is well browned and puffy, but not burned. Remove from broiler. Let stand a few minutes (helps the eggs set, makes it easier to cut). Cut into pie wedges with a sharp knife. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

Fabulous, and I've never heard of or tasted either of these.

I do remember those hours of primping and must say I don't miss them. I sitll wish I could get ready as quickly as a man does.

9:06 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

This looks wonderful. gailan or mustard spinach is a favorite of mine and this is a great way to prepare it.
I am very happy to have found your blog. I hope to be back but I must tell you I almost never read blogs with the black templates--they give me a terrible headache.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

I've never heard of mustard spinach...but I think I recognise it. I see lots of stuff at the markets here that I can't identify. (It took me forever to figure out what black radishes were for!) This sounds great. A new quest for market-day!

1:13 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Thanks! I am amazed that we are still able to find new things at our little weekly farmer's market. The local cultural diversity certainly helps!

Despite the differences in prep time and effort, the girls still seem to find these guys 'hot', and visa versa. Go figure!

the chocolate lady - I have read many times that white text on black is actually easier to read and less strain on the eyes. I am sorry to hear this is not always the case! I certainly didn't intend to give anyone headaches!

9:22 AM  
Blogger PatL said...

Your daughter's process reminds me of the WEEKS of thought leading up to my role in a recent play. Not days, but weeks! We must seem like such oddities to you. Enjoyed your writing very much. And your photos are luscious.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Callipygia said...

I really enjoy the writing and don't think the stretch is too far! Food looks good as I am sure the young ladies and gents did as well.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

the vegetables selection is incredible, the aspect is good, and the flavor is something heavenly, I recomment to all people who want taste this recipe, just do it.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

Excellent thanks for the recipe, I think that I'm gonna try the next weekend or invent something for making it right now haha

1:12 PM  

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