Wednesday, May 10

What can brown do for you?

Because I'm, well, obsessed with food, I often quiz my family and friends about which foods they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert isle. I thought it would be interesting and fun to pose that question to you.

The rules:

You are stranded on a boat beached on a island. You can get whatever fish you want and hand-harvest your own damn sea salt (think of the money you'll save). There is a natural fresh water stream on the island (snow-melt from the very, very, tall mountain-of course, due to global warming, this is a limited resource, so enjoy it!) There is nothing left on the boat and as far as you know nothing on the island save your own unfortunate soul. You get 10 items to select. Huge categories don't count. You can't say "Herbs and spices" or "Meat". Try to be specific, it's more interesting. These food items will be delivered to you in your sorry state by UPS, because it is simply endless what brown can do for you. No, you cannot ask for more items from the UPS person. I know they're cute in their little brown shorts, but you can't have them either.

To get you going, here is my list (in no particular order):

    1. Dark chocolate
    2. Marjoram (my favorite herb)
    3. Red wine (not too picky, but if I had to narrow it...Oregon Pinot Noir from Adelsheim.)
    4. Bread (Essential's Columbia loaf is a favorite)
    5. Goat cheese (anything from Quillisascut or a new favorite, the Larzac, from Monteillet near Walla Walla-look for it at Seattle farmer's markets)
    6. Greens (kale, specifically. I crave greens, often, and will soon post a recipe whereby I render them tender and sweet and not bitter at all).
    7. Olives (never met a kalamata I wouldn't eat).
    8. Squab (call me mean, but I just love eating little birds and squab is the tastiest).
    9. Lemon (I love sour things...hell, if I could, I'd bring ZOURS)
    10. Matzo ball soup (because I think I'll need a little comfort food!)

Honorable mentions: fennel, peaches, raspberries, huckleberries (wow, no fruit...that sucks!), wild mushrooms, nettles, tomatoes, lettuces, beer, NY steak, chocolate-covered gummy bears (I'll still be premenstrual on the island, no?)

I used to think this would be a great question to pose to other chefs and then write a book about it. And then the book Culinary Artistry came out in 1996 which did just that. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, you stole my idea! Ah well, it's a great book and from it I will share with you the top-10 lists from a few famous chefs. They didn't have to follow any of my strict rules (and it shows).

First, from the late Jean-Louis Palladin:

    1. Poultry: I'd bring duck.
    2. Foie gras: I'm addicted to foie gras.
    3. Bananas: They give you strength.
    4. Salt: I'm nuts about salt.
    5. Spices and herbs: I like verbena so much that I named my daughter after it.
    6. Olives. Likewise, I named my son Oliver.
    7. Wine. When I smell it, it's so fantastic...
    8. Grappa or Armagnac
    9. Dried cod.
    10. Water. I'm addicted to water-I drink four or five liters of Evian a day!

He said nuts and salt on the same line. That's crafty but it's still cheating! And now from Alice Waters:

    1. Bread
    2. Olive oil
    3. Garlic
    4. Tomatoes.
    5. Herbs- Basil or rosemary, perhaps
    6. Salad greens-wild rocket or chicories
    7. Noodles-any kind. I had great soba noodles recently, and I love Italian pasta.
    8. Citrus-I like citrus a lot-everything from limes to blood oranges.
    9. Figs-I like them fresh. I like baking fish in fig leaves, which gives it a coconut-like flavor and is very aromatic. And I like cooking over fig wood.
    10. Nuts-It's hard to choose-probably almonds or walnuts.

If she said Bruschetta she could have knocked off numbers 1-5. But then that would be cheating, like my insertion of number 10, matzo ball soup (which is a sneaky way of saying eggs, chicken, carrots, celery and matzo meal, aka Jewish hardtack). And lastly, a list from Jean-Georges Vongerichten:

    1. Lemongrass. It's my favorite herb. I love its fragrance. It's addictive. I could cook it with my eyes closed. It's like a friend. I'm so comfortable with it.
    2. Sweetbreads. I need to eat them once a week. I love the flavor and the texture-which go with everything.
    3. Salad greens. I like Asian greens, watercress. I put them everywhere.
    4. "Liquid salt" (nam pla and/or soy sauce) I use it in marinades, in seasoning-it's different.
    5. Parsley. It's the first herb I knew-I grew up with it. I chop it as needed, because within two minutes, it starts losing its flavor.
    6. Mustard. I love it as a condiment.
    7. Truffles. Both black and white-they're gems of the earth.
    8. Curry paste (red, green and yellow). I like mixing all three for lobster with herbs.
    9. Fish. I'm a fish freak.
    10. Licorice. I grew up with it-as a kid, I always chewed it. I like it in desserts, on pears, ice cream, sweet-breads.

He is a sweet-bread freak, clearly. Now it's your turn. What kind of a food freak are you?

Trip Preparation Report: T-2 days until I depart for the San Juan Islands, WA where we will rendevous with all the other Grand Banks boat owners going on this trip. T-4 days until we are "underway". Spent all day yesterday repeating the shopping spree at Slotnicks. Blew through over $1000 at PCC (for organic and bulk items), Noah's (for bagels for freezing), Uwajimaya (for all Asian items) and Mutual Fish (frozen shrimp, unagi-frozen, prepared eel, tobiko-wasabi and regular flying fish eggs- and calamari-cleaned and frozen).

Arrived at the boat yesterday to learn that the 6 "convertible" freezer/refrigerator drawers I'm working with in the galley are not "convertibles". Which, in essence, means that I had planned for freezer space for an entire drawer-full of product. Luckily I hadn't yet purchased the poultry items intended for that space. The owners were alerted. I'm waiting to hear if they are having a external bar fridge turned into a freezer or if I will need to set up a cooler on the deck (where it will be much colder) for frozen fruits and breads to make room for the meat which should be in consistent deep freeze.

And in other news: I just discovered this website that gives "virtual tours" of Seattle. On their page, there is a tour of the exact model of swanky boat I will be on. Some things are different on our boat-ours comes with a private chef and a dog named Max- but you'll get a general idea. If you click each photo of the different areas of the boat, it will take you to a page where you can slide your mouse around and get a 360 degree look. If you spin the photo very fast in one direction, you will be able to empathize with any motion sickness we may feel. Oh, and watch your head!


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