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Some Things Never Change

It’s hard to believe it was just two years ago when we were ridden with anxiety and with brave faces prepping for our very first Friday. It was the day Red Eye decided to splash us prematurely on a two page spread in their Restaurant Features, and in an odd coincidence the day the utility pole outside our back door came crashing down on neighbor Michael’s poor garage from the 70 mph winds foreboding one of the heaviest rain storms that summer.

I don’t know how, but we managed to do 63 covers (two full turns) all whilst uncomfortably blotting rain water relentlessly leaking through our windows and spilling onto the tables of some of the nicest and most understanding diners you could ever meet.

We have grown tremendously as a restaurant since then, gaining the attention of some heavy weights in the press and food world along the way. And while 63 covers today isn’t anything to sneeze at, it certainly doesn’t induce the same kind of trepidation it did two years ago.

There is an old griddle that we inherited from the previous restaurant tenant. The kind that looks like it’s been through hell and back. We’ve been using it, along with other pots, pans, refrigerators and serving ware that came with the space. Mostly because it saved us from going out and buying new. But over time, and from the great fortune of staying busy, the old things began disappearing one by one. And in its place would appear shinier things. But for some reason, this griddle, whose very first appointment was to heat up sourdough crostini which went along with a bowl full of steaming mussels, couldn’t be rid. And even after its bottom gave out and began warping, it’s still a crucial vessel used for some of the dishes we serve today.

The other day Vicki brought in a brand new griddle pan from a recent shopping trip. But in the same absurd manner in which my dad would wear the same worn sneakers for years and years refusing a new pair until the soles flop off, the cooks would reach straight past the brand new griddle every time and take down the old one. Puzzled by this, we asked if the new pan wasn’t the right kind. “No, it just doesn’t make the same flavor as the old guy” Ed would say to us. Could be. I speculate it also brings a sense of old comfort to the rapidly growing and evolving kitchen. It keeps us grounded and reminds us where we began.

Cheers to our Two Year Anniversary!

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an exciting day at ruxbin

February 16, 2012

6am.  GQ Magazine announces their 2012 Ten Best New Restaurants in America.  Ruxbin makes the cut at #9.  We. Are. Floored.

10am.  I get a text from Jenny:  “A guy had a tripod setup taking photos of our storefront, asked who he was shooting for and he said ABC.  I was out in my pink socks and crocs too.”  And yes, he glanced at her feet and gave her a funny look.

That's hot, Jen.

12pm.  Excitement erupts in the kitchen as Nate arrives with our brand new Cotton Candy machine!  A vast upgrade from our original one (generously gifted to us by Rosy).

The Real Deal.

1pm. Jason and Ed haul up lumber to the Rooftop, work on the Garden begins. This year’s goal: triple the garden size and have a bee hive.

Planter Boxes

5pm.  Family Meal.  The crew goes festive and makes carne asada,  fiesta-style~

People ask if we eat well at the restaurant...

yes.

5:15pm. We bust out the celebratory GQ Cookies.

Chef loves cookies.

Cookie Party.

🙂

12am.  Service is over, clean down is finished. Ed sits with the staff and says a few heartfelt words as we pop a little bubbly to celebrate and wind down the night.

Thankful to our guests and staff for another great night.  May we always continue to Push.

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Making the List

Lists are my sanity.  Making them, seeking them, referring back to them as often as I can, crossing them off, and repeating the process over again.  If you live by them (particularly those of the silent badgering To Do variety) just as much as I do, you’d understand how essential they are for processing a multitude of things at once.  On my desk right now is a shopping list of groceries that hadn’t made the day’s delivery, a list of phone calls and emails to return, a list of pros and cons (of a deeply personal matter that needn’t be divulged here), a list of places visited and remembered in Paris this past Labor Day, a list of neglected lists from previous weeks (ranked of course by priority), a list of goals for Ruxbin written in shorthand, and a crumpled up prep list Eddy must have left behind at some point.

But lists are also my repose.  There is nothing I enjoy greater than combing through somebody’s cherished book list, playlist, or bucket list.  While there is hardly any time for watching movies these days, I still like to check the box office list from time to time to see the weekend gross.  There is something very gratifying about making your way down a list.  The cognitive leg work of sorting things out has already been done, leaving you with the easy option to relate or dissociate.

Which brings me to a rather momentous list that’s recently touched our lives here at Ruxbin.  The abridged version is that we were fortunate enough to experience the “popular new kid” phase last summer when we first opened our doors, as evidenced by the frequency of nights we’d run out of tables.  And luckily, our passage into the “old news” bit wasn’t so painful, as we were still filling capacity with ease on most nights.  But the “hottest newest” effect was in truth beginning to wear off midsummer.  At first, we’d reason that we were experiencing slow season in Chicago just like everybody else.  Who would want to be cooped up inside on a warm summer night anyway?  Summertime is numbered in this city, and if we weren’t ourselves tied to running a restaurant we’d be at the lake with our coolers too.  But to be honest, the dip in covers had some of us a little concerned.

In a surprising turn of events a mere week after addressing this eventual slowdown, we were named 5th Best New Restaurant in the country by Bon Appetit in their highly regarded restaurant issue.  I imagine most consider these rankings and Top Ten lists arbitrary to some degree.  Especially because opinions are by definition subjective.  But when the opinion belongs to a trusted and well-traveled gourmet who carries a great deal of influence in the industry, it dares to cross over into something more than just an opinion.   We’ve certainly had noteworthy mentions in the press before, but nothing as bold as “Number 5 in the Country”.  Something about this label imparted a new sense of validation at Ruxbin for what we do each service and all the hours surrounding it.  And after the initial wave of excitement, it began to pose some serious inner-reflective questions which had me feeling the need to form some sort of construct to understand the meaning behind it all.

This past fall break, we were lucky enough to book a table at Le Chateaubriand, the highest ranked restaurant in Paris and 9th in the world according to Pellegrino’s 2011 list.  I was anticipating the meal of my life.  And as each course presented itself to us, I found myself scrutinizing a little more and indulging a little less.  It was as though the weight of this “Number 9” had me stranded in a jungle of critiques.  There were palate-rousing flavors [a roasted chicken so replete with almond extract, a pairing so odd that it stripped away any sense of familiarity I ever had to chicken] and textures I have never experienced before [duck heart coated in seeds and having every bit of an organ-like texture you’d imagine an organ to be].  I tried creatures that will haunt me forever [salty barnacles resembling the claw of a sea dragon which juiced with each bite and had minuscule mussels latched tightly to its skin].  There was shock factor [a raw mushroom opulently covered in rich dark chocolate with nothing more than a sprig of mint] and moments of sheer appreciation [a refreshing ceviche with pickling juice and peach, and an array of herbs piled atop a floral scented ice cream].  It wasn’t until Eddy cut the circuit of critiques at the table by raising a pretty straight-forward question that we realized our gaffe.  It wasn’t whether or not we liked the barnacles or chocolate covered mushroom, as that would be debatable.  He simply asked if we were having a good time.  And to that our answer was a resounding yes.

What I learned most from that five course dinner at Le Chateaubriand and how it relates to us at Ruxbin is that there really is no universal check-list of criteria.  What makes a good restaurant for one person could be if the food has challenged them or not, and for somebody else it might be the level of service received.  For Bon Appetit editor Andrew Knowlton, I think the determining factor was whether or not a restaurant afforded him a good and memorable experience.  As sited straight from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, “an interesting experience in a simple establishment, where exceptional innovation was discovered, could be judged better than a more opulent meal from a widely feted restaurant team.”   When Mr. Knowlton recognized something special about Ruxbin, it was reaffirming and humbling for all of us.  In our hearts, we knew we had a good thing going.  A restaurant that, above all things, cultivates sincerity in both the food we cook and the service we give.  But to see it recognized on a very national scale is a privilege that we know we cannot take lightly.

We had the opportunity to share a round of drinks with Mr. Knowlton a couple nights ago, and we thanked him for the recognition.  He responded by thanking us for a great meal, one that he apparently hadn’t forgotten in over four months’ time, as he recounted with fondness our bouillabaisse-like mussels, the crispy eggplant salad with golden beet batons, and how warm and inviting our staff was.  Naturally, all this comes with more pressure to do more and be better.  But if you were to ask what it means to be number 5, my answer would be simple.  We try our best to ensure our guests have a good time, and perhaps they will leave with a happy rivet in the memory of the dinner they’ve just been served.

Savoring pastries in Paris.

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Sixty-40

by Ed

I love pork. Well the truth is I love almost every food product, but pork is indeed wonderful. It’s versatile, tastes great cured, roasted, and fried, and bacon tastes so good that I often chide my cooks that adding bacon to a new recipe is just lazy or cheating. Very few things taste bad with bacon. Actually I personally can’t think of anything that tastes bad with bacon, maybe caviar? But if I remember correctly I think the general Law of Bacon translates to:

Bacon= Awesome

Bacon > (meh)

(meh) + Bacon is always = or > (Good) and sometimes = Awesome therefore:

(meh) < (Anything) +(Bacon), which is either always = or > (Good) and quite possibly (Awesome)

Fortunately for me I’m not the the only one who feels this way and people as a whole have loved pork for quite sometime. The fact is that Pigs are one of the earliest domesticated animals in our history, and as with any product that is continuously bred for our tastes, the pork that we enjoy on our tables is constantly changing. A clear example of this is that the pork that we readily pick up at the supermarket today is 30% leaner than what people were able to enjoy as recently as in the 70s.

Luckily for us who fall under the banner of “a leaner pig is a less tasty pig”, there has always been a stubborn and small group of renegade farmers resistant to the call for ”[an]Other white meat”. Refusing to allow what we now consider heritage breeds to fall to the wayside, these farmers have continued to raise pigs based on flavor rather than other values, such as the ability to be quickly brought to slaughter or the procurement of a leaner meat. In the past decade or so the demand for pork with the old flavor has surged, and it’s encouraging to see a growing group of farmers dedicated to this movement, like Faith’s Farm.

One of the perks of owning a restaurant is that you get invited to some pretty amazing events. Recently the Ruxbin crew was invited to Faith’s Farm for their 3rd Annual Butcher & Booze event. The purpose of the event was to get like-minded restaurants together to share their thoughts on farm to table products and the local food movement.

A quick note on Faith’s Farm. Faith’s Farm is one of those stubborn farms that decided to raise an old-fashioned pig, and in their own words, proudly and rightfully, proclaim “All our livestock is raised the old fashion way: on free-range pasture that is not chemically treated….. They are raised with a gentle and humane hand. ” Faith’s Farm, located in Bonfield, IL is a 90 minute drive from Chicago, two hours away if you’re prone to getting lost like I am. It’s run by a woman named Kim, one of the most hospitable and strongest-willed people I’ve met. Kim turned her back to a white-collar job and willed a succesful farm into existence with basically no experience and what I presume must have been an amazing combination of grit, gumption and determination. If you’ve ever read a Michael Pollan book, imagine one of those ideal bucolic farms he profiles that are sustainable and hell-bent to be the opposite of so many of the nightmarish factory farms in our country, and that’s what Kim has been able to create with Faith’s Farm.

At the farm one of the main events was the live slaughtering and butchering of both a lamb and a hog. Watching an animal slaughtered can be a harrowing experience and there is little joy to be found in the macabre event. Even so, the organizers felt that witnessing a slaughter first- hand was important because it has the ability to bring a much greater appreciation and understanding of how food products that we’re so familiar with, under the best circumstances, reaches our table, I agree.

The Hampshire-Berkshire Hog, right before the slaughter

The hog that was chosen was a magnificent animal. A crossbred Hampshire-Berkshire hog, obviously well fed and taken care of. Taken away from his group for the first time, the hog was clearly distressed. Taking note of this, Kim ordered that the hog be quickly put down, and he was taken down swiftly with a bolt to the head.

Sam, after the slaughter, showing us how to butcher a whole hog

Next we saw the pig being butchered. Under the skilled hands of Sam, the butcher, a hog that weighed nearly 300 lbs was quickly skinned and broken down into primal cuts in less than an hour. To put this in perspective, it can take me up to 20 minutes just to skin a large pork belly. The skill and craftmanship of Sam, bluntly put, was breath-taking. After the pork was broken down, we took a tour of Faith’s Farm, had a potluck dinner, enjoyed some booze, made some friends, and at the end of night we were given a very generous parting gift: whatever parts of the hog we would like.

For a restaurant Ruxbin unfortunately has very little refrigeration (no walk-in, reach-ins and lowboys only, in an apartment sized kitchen), and at the time we only had one menu item that used pork, our pork belly salad. I already had a fresh pork belly ready to cure in the fridge and wasn’t sure that if I picked up more I’d be able to sell it before it all went bad. I also knew we only had space for a couple pork-chops and a slab of pork belly. So in the end, that’s what we took.

Sun-burnt and tired from the day’s events we drove home giddy with the pork we were able to take home. The next day, with a clearer head after a good night’s sleep, I was able to take a better look at the pork belly that Kim had so generously given to us. I knew this was a good product, but under the flourescent lights of our kitchen, laying next to the pork belly that I had picked up from another purveyor, it was pretty mind-blowing to see the difference between the two. Kim’s pork belly had more layers of fat and meat. In Korea there is a prized pork belly known as “Heuk Dehji” which is loved for its five layers of meat and fat. Faith Farm’s pork belly made the prized “Heuk Dehji” seem homely, and our other pork belly emaciated.

So for the next week, unbeknownst to our customers, for the same price they were able to enjoy both a product who’s food cost would have nearly doubled what they were paying, and the finest specimen of pork belly that I or any of my cooks had ever worked with. Being able to do this as a cook brought my staff and I a lot of joy. There’s something beautiful about being able to send out a product that you know is wonderful, and allowing a guest to experience it unfettered of any grandiose background. Let the product speak for itself.

As Friday came that week, in the middle of our rush, the last portions of Faith Farm’s wonderful pork belly was coming to an end. I asked Gabe, who was working garde manger that day, how many orders we had left, and he responded “two orders, Chef”. From the corner of my eye I could see that the 2nd to last serving being plated was a generous portion of pork belly, so much so that I was about to have Gabe cut the portion down, but I stopped myself thinking that the end

to such a wonderful product should be celebratory and why not knock their socks off.

Of course that was the first Pork Belly Salad that has ever come back to our kitchen not fully devoured. I grilled the server what the problem was and she explained, with a look that could only be described as confused, that the table had said “the pork belly was too fatty and that they wanted a portion with less fat”. At this point you might expect the kitchen to be angered by such a response, but we found ourselves just laughing and incredulous. How could this be? “And no”, I said to the server “I will not send them another pork belly.” Instead I sent our expediter, Nate, to talk to the table and explain to them the origins of the pork belly we had just sent them, and to maybe clear up any misunderstanding they may have of the product. Maybe they hadn’t realized that pork belly was basically a generous portion of bacon. Minutes later, Nate came back with a grin that resembled a grimace. He informed me that the table upon his explanation responded that not only were they quite familiar with pork belly but they had much finer pork belly at many other establishments in Chicago, and that a proper pork belly should have a ratio of sixty-40, meat to fat. Gabe and I soon had a grin that resembled the one plastered on Nate’s face. This reaction was elicited by the fact that: 1. I, and any of my staff, would swear on nearly anything that you could not procure a better raw product than the one Kim had given us, and 2. neither I, nor any of my staff, had ever heard of this vaunted ratio of sixty-40.

Throughout the rest of service we joked amongst ourselves and even started using “sixty-40” as a punchline. Sometimes the only proper response to a situation is to just try to laugh it off. The truth is I wasn’t able to laugh it off, and later that night I started to wonder how the customer had come up with this ratio. Disturbed by the experience, unable to sleep, I decided to google sixty-40 and see if it had any relation to pork belly. What I found with some quick digging is that it is possible to order pork belly at a sixty-40 ratio, which made me pause and think “maybe that table was right”, but then I started to google Berkshire Hogs and here’s what I found:

A standard Berkshire hog should have 2 to 3 times the amount of intramuscular fat that a standard commodity hog would have, and in general is a much fatter pig than the ones people in the U.S. have become accustomed to.

If that’s the case, then it seems logical that a Berkshire hog’s belly would have a much higher ratio of fat to meat, much higher than the ratio of sixty-40 that our disgruntled table had expected. So what does this mean? I may be wrong, but this is what I believe: Sixty-40 is a standard that may have come about due to the leaner hog. It is not de facto, but maybe should be more correctly understood as the minimum requirement. And yes, maybe pork belly that is sixty-40 is what people have come to expect, but that doesn’t mean that such a ratio is what’s best. As a cook, as a chef, I’ve come to believe that predetermined notions and bias should often be put to the wayside, and a better question to ask when any of us have a particular dish or meal is not whether or not it meets a predetermined standard of quality, but whether or not it is satisfying. Did it make me happy, did I think it was tasty, or maybe even delicious. Food should be enjoyed on a visceral level, and not be judged like a dog show awarding points based on a “breed standard”.

I know in my heart that the pork belly we served was exceptional, that the fat on that once happy pig was cleaner and more unctuous than any other pork belly that I had ever had. And yes, the fat to meat ratio was generously beyond sixty-40, but that should be expected because anything that is exceptional will naturally break any silly standard or mold.

And so “sixty-40” has become a code word in our kitchen, it means “the minimum requirement” and in our kitchen if something is “sixty-40” that means that you better get back at it, because if you just put in the minimum requirement that means you did things half-assed, you didn’t put your heart into it, and you didn’t try your best. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned working in the restaurant industry is that there are very few things that are meaningful in the kitchen, and in life, that can be accomplished with the minimum requirement.

With the minimum requirement Kim would never have been able to create Faith’s Farm. If Kim strived only to meet the industry standard of quality, if she didn’t push to make Faith’s Farm a place whose own standards were far above the industry norm, her pork and other produce would never have become what it is today: exceptional. In that same way, I hope that everyone at Ruxbin never settles for “sixty-40”, and instead I hope we strive and continue to push ourselves to be, in our own way, exceptional.

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House-Grown Part II …

Here is a look at our growing garden.  Photos courtesy of Nate Chung.

Our heirloom tomatoes have gotten much taller and stronger. Growing among them are young sesame leaves, sourced straight from my mother's garden.

The Sun Gold tomatoes have already started to blossom. A good sign of juicy things to come!

Mint happily growing next to our Golden Sage.

Left: We've been using the Sweet Alyssum (edible flowers) to garnish our Soba. Right: Three rows of baby lettuces have just begun to sprout.

Jason's spring onions nestled in between the flowering kale are doing quite well too.

Our Bean Bush. Easily the most anticipated vegetable growing on the roof. We planted a colorful trio of Blue Lake 274, Cherokee Wax, and Purple Queens.

The baby lettuces were last to be planted but they are quickly sprouting and catching up.

                           The rooftop garden also serves as a nice respite during staff meals.  Here we are enjoying Tacos de Panza roofside. 

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So Long, and Thanks for all the Trout

by Ed

Today, we’ve approached our first year anniversary  here at Ruxbin, and it’s amazing how much has taken place in the year. There’s so much that I’m thankful for, from our reception by the public, the positive press that we’ve garnered, our continual growth and maturity as a restaurant, to the fact that in an economy that isn’t in the best of times we’re still here, and not just surviving, but in many ways thriving.

Our success has been manifold, from the staff to the decor, from blind luck to naivety, to our loyal regulars and the overall positive reaction to our food. Which brings me to the point of this post: Trout.

From the onset of Ruxbin there has been one entree that has been with us from day 1, and that has been our Pan-Seared Trout.  Trout quickly became one of our signature dishes, and (in no small part through the imploring of our customers) is the only entree that has survived each menu change.

It’s a dish that I love for a number of reasons:

1. It takes a relatively common fish and treats it with the care and attention that would normally be shown to a protein of more exotic and/or greater value. For example, we fabricate the fish in a manner similar to that of sashimi and we pan sear it like one would a filet of Dover Sole.

2. It’s a dish composed of relatively simple ingredients whose sum becomes greater than its individual parts.

3.  It tastes pretty damn good.  As one of my cooks said “the dates, bulgur, and trout might not be a traditional combination, but tastes like it should be” (and that is a mighty fine compliment).

The trout has been one of Ruxbin’s standards, and if I were to personify it, it’s been a great friend to us. It’s been with us from the beginning, through thick and thin. With all that being said as we continue to grow and mature as a kitchen, there comes a time when we have to retire a dish to make room for others.  So as we’re at the one year mark, and especially when we feel that a dish is no longer evolving, it becomes clear that we should say good-bye, for the time being, to our dear friend.  In celebration of this transition, this will be our last week of trout. And as a thank you to all those who loved this dish, I’ve posted the recipe, as well as a few photos that show part of the process that we go through to get this “common” fish to your plate.

Trout has been cleaned and filleted, and is now ready for pin-boning

40 orders of trout, depending on how fast you are this can kill your prep time, taking from anywhere to 40 mins if you're fast, and up to 90 mins if you're a slow poke

This is the light at the end of the tunnel: Trout has been portioned, 4 oz each, and is ready for either the pan or the fridge

1. Check if the skin has become crispy 2.Push flesh down with a spoon so that the entirety of the skin is in direct contact with the pan 3. Move fillets around the pan so that cooking is even throughout

We've found that the key to an extra crispy skin is that you need someone standing behind you, arms crossed, looking slightly bored. (In this pic Jason's doing his best to fill this important role.)

Accoutrements for our beloved trout

Finishing the plate you can get fancy with tweezers and spoons, but if you're at home feel free to use your fingers.

RECIPE  for PAN-SEARED TROUT w/BULGUR WHEAT TABOULEH, ASPARAGUS & DATES       yields 1 entree

TROUT (protein portion)

4 oz            Trout (filleted, belly trimmed, scaled and pin-boned, cut into 2 pieces)

1 T              Canola oil/olive oil blend

2  T             Butter

1/8 ea        Lemon (Wedge)

3 sprigs      Thyme

1 t                Shallots (finely chopped)

Procedure:

1. Place saute pan on high heat, and wait for it the pan to get smoking hot, you literally need to see smoke coming off the pan.

2. Have your trout ready by your side, and lightly season the skin of the trout with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan, swirl the oil around so that the pan is evenly coated, and wait until the oil has the same viscosity as water.

3. Gently skim the surface of the pan with one of your trout fillets, if the skin is starting to stick this means that the oil is not hot enough, if it doesn’t, lay the fillet in the pan. Repeat with your other fillets.

4. With a spoon gently press the flesh of the trout down so that there is even contact with the skin of the trout and the pan.

5. As the skin crisps up lightly season the flesh of the trout with salt and pepper.

6. Crush the thyme with your hand and add it to the pan, be careful as the thyme will pop as you add it to the pan, tilt the pan away from you so that you don’t get too many splatter burns.

6. After about 45 seconds, attempt to lift the fillet off the pan with a spoon. If it sticks that means it is not ready, don’t worry, have some patience, the skin will release when its ready. If the fillet releases look underneath it to gauge how crispy the skin looks, if the skin resembles the top of a creme brulee its ready for the next step.

7. Add butter to the saute pan, and swirl. Lift the fillets so that the butter can get underneath the skin of the trout. The butter will turn the skin a golden brown, and will regulate the temperature of the pan.

8. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan, and place rind in the pan as well, be careful as this will case splatter as well, so if you have a gas range momentarily turn off the heat and than put it back on, otherwise you’ll end up flambéing your trout.

9.  Add shallots to the pan, quickly spoon the brown butter in your pan over the trout fillets until the flesh is no longer translucent and has become an opaque white.

10. Remove fillets from the pan, skin side up, and pour the contents of the pan onto the fillets.

11. Dry fillets with a paper towel, and now your done with the protein portion.

BULGUR WHEAT TABOULEH (starch protion)

2/3  C  Bulgur Wheat (cook according to directions, and cool)

1 ea      Green Onion (chopped along a bias)

1 t         Sesame Seeds (Black)

1 t         Shallots (finely chopped)

1 T        Red Onion (chopped)

1 t          Lemon Juice

1 T         Butter

Procedure:

1. Place saute pan under high heat, and wait until it begins smoking.

2. Add butter, wait until it browns, and add the shallots, be careful that they don’t burn.

3.  Add Bulgur Wheat, flip the pan so that the Bulgur wheat is evenly coated with butter.

4. Add all other ingredients, add a dash of salt, and adjust for taste.

5. Bulgur is done when the grain becomes crispy on the outside, but still soft in the inside.

ASPARAGUS & DATES (vegetable portion)

3 ea     Asparagus ( bases gently peeled)

2 ea     Dried Dates ( rehydrated in hot water, for about 10 mins, and than halved)

1 t        Canola oil/Olive oil blend

1 t        Butter

1 t        Shallots

Procedure:

1.  In a hot saute pan, and wait until it shimmers.

2.  Add dates and wait until they brown, ~20 seconds.

3. In the same pan add the asparagus and wait until they become charred on at least one side.

4. Finish with butter and shallots, season lightly with salt.

BASIL OIL (sauce portion)

30 ea    Basil leaves

1 ea       Garlic, clove

A/N      Extra Virgin Olive oil

Procedure:

1.  Blanch Basil leaves in boiling water, less than 5 seconds, and than shock leaves in ice water.

2. Squeeze out as much water from the blanched basil as possible.

3. Place Basil in a blender with the garlic clove and add just enough oil so that basil can be blended until smooth.

4. Adjust with salt to your taste.

ASSEMBLY

1. Sauce plate first with a light drizzle of basil oil around the edges of your plate.

2.  Place Bulgur Tabouleh in the middle of your plate with cooked dates mixed in.

3.  Place finished trout on top of the tabouleh

4. Arrange asparagus so that it looks pretty on the plate

5. Put a light smear of the basil oil on the edge of each trout fillet.

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House-Grown

We’ll be making a go of our very own rooftop garden this month.  Plans have been brewing among our kitchen crew since the first hint of spring, and images of tri-color carrots and candy-striped radishes have danced in our heads all winter long.  Despite a few serious logistical concerns (having no direct water line would make for a tricky irrigation system, figuring which crops could withstand the colossal amount of full sun our aluminum tinned roof absorbs on a hot summer day could be somewhat limiting, how do we protect the tiny sprouts from the torrential 50mph winds often experienced on roof level, how much weight can this old building even support, and most importantly who will haul up the stacks of 40 lb. soil bags four flights of rickety stairs?) we resolved to move forward.

Here we go!

Leapfrogging the soil one flight at a time

A winded crew taking a much needed breather after lugging up 640 pounds of dirt

Configuring the raised beds

Creating a layer of compost using egg crates, shells, and coffee grinds

As the garden grows we’ll continue to document and share the progress with you.

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