Oysters; Yin-Yang Food; Blue's Wines; Search for Sushi; La Migra & the NRA; Julia Childs in France

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Laura Avery speaks with Laurie Burkart of Burkart Farms in Dinuba. Laurie is bringing her certified organic stone fruit to the market right now. She is offering tasty rich Apriums, which are a cross between an apricot and a plum, for $4 per pound. She also has super rich peaches, which she says are beautiful this year. Laurie cautions that if stone fruits are shiny and bright, they aren't quite ripe. For the fullest flavor, she suggests waiting until the skin begins to dull. She also admonishes against pinching fruit, "It's not a bowling ball.--- Instead, palm the fruit and apply gentle pressure to see if it will yield. One last suggestion: never refrigerate stone fruit. If it's ripe, promptly eat or cook it; if it's not ripe, let it ripen on the counter for a few days.

Laura also met up with John Barbagelata of Barbagelata Farms from Linden. Although John says that it has been a very tough weather year for cherries, he has some beauties. He says that although cherry season will be the same length, about five weeks, the cherries will be in shorter supply and be a bit more expensive. John has four varieties of cherries this year: Burlat, Tartarians, Rainiers, and Brooks.

Mark Kurlansky, acclaimed journalist and author of Cod and Salt, has now written a book about New York City through the history of the oyster, The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. Mark's books are known for their exhaustive research and their entertaining approach to non-fiction. Here are two recipes adapted from The Big Oyster.

Oyster Fritters
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 20 minutes

  • 24 shucked oysters, with -- cup of their liquor
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/2cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • Tartar sauce, for serving.
  1. Check oysters and remove any bits of shell. Put oysters in a bowl. Lightly beat egg yolk. Whisk in oyster liquor and flour. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. 2. Heat oil to 375-- in a deep-fryer, a saucepan or a wok. When oil is hot, beat egg white until stiff and fold into batter. Place oysters in batter and stir to coat them.
  3. Drop well-coated oysters one at a time into oil and fry, turning them once with tongs, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel to drain briefly. Serve with tartar sauce.

Oyster Pigs in Blankets
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

  • 16 thin slices bacon (1 pound)
  • 16 plump shucked oysters
  • Lemon wedges.
  1. Place a strip of bacon on a work surface. Place an oyster in the middle, wrap bacon around oyster, and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining oysters and bacon.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Fry bacon-wrapped oysters until bacon is golden brown, turning them once. Drain briefly, then serve with lemon.

Grace Young, winner of the 2005 Book of the Year award for The Breath of a Wok, talks about the yin and yang qualities of food. There is a section in her other award-winning book, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing, called Achieving Yin-Yang Harmony. Grace shared a few recipes from her book.

Steamed Rock Cod
Serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal

For steaming a whole rock cod, Grace suggests using a cake rack set into a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet because most oval platters large enough to hold the fish will not fit into a bamboo or metal steamer basket. Make sure that the platter is heat-proof and has slightly sloping sides, so that the juices that form during cooking do not spill over. Rock cod is widely available in California, but you can also use black sea bass, snapper, or small striped bass. If you don't want to steam an entire fish, try 1-inch thick salmon steaks but reduce the steaming time by a few minutes.
  • 1 1/2 lbrock cod, cleaned, scaled and gutted, head and tail intact
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 4 Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tsps finely minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons finely shredded ginger
  • 2 scallions, finely shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon dry Sherry or Shao Hsing rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • Cilantro sprigs
  1. Thoroughly rinse the fish in cold water and drain. Gently rub the cavity and outside of the fish with salt and rinse again. Place fish on a rack and allow to air-dry. In a medium bowl, soak the mushrooms in 1/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry. (Reserve remaining mushroom liquid to flavor soups.) Cut off and discard the stems, and thinly slice the caps.
  2. Place the fish on a heatproof oval platter (be sure it fits in the wok to be used for steaming without touching its sides). Trim the fish tail, if necessary, to fit the fish onto the platter. Evenly sprinkle mushrooms, garlic, ginger, and half the scallions on the fish. Drizzle with sherry and sprinkle with the sugar.
  3. Set a cake rack in a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet and pour in about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the wok, and bring water to a boil over high heat. Carefully, place the platter into the steamer, cover, and steam 13 to 15 minutes on high heat, or until fish flakes when tested. Check the water level and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water. Test fish for doneness by poking the thickest part with a chopstick or fork; flesh should flake. If not, resteam 1 to 2 minutes, or until fish just flakes. Remove wok or skillet from heat, and carefully remove the platter from steamer and pour off any liquid in the platter.
  4. In a small skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Sprinkle remaining scallions over fish and drizzle with soy sauce. Carefully pour hot oil over fish. The oil will make a crackling sound as it hits the fish. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.

Chayote Carrot Soup
Makes 4 servings as a tonic

Chayote also known as mirliton is a vegetable the Chinese believe cleanse the system of toxins but is not a cooling vegetable. It is therefore especially suited for the elderly, who should avoid eating foods that are too cooling, as those foods might weaken them. This is a simple soup my parents often make in the spring and eat at the conclusion of their meal. No matter how long the chayote is cooked the peel is always tough unless the chayote is very young; therefore, chayote must be peeled before cooking.
  • 2 chayote, about 1-1/4 lbs
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 8 ozs pork loin, well trimmed
  1. Peel the chayotes. Halve and remove the flat, pale seed (if there is one). Quarter lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Trim the carrots and cut them into 1-1/2-inch lengths.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the pork with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Add the chayote slices and carrots, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 hours, or until broth is no longer pale in color, but has a slight orange blush and has cooked down to about 1-1/2 quarts. Serve piping hot (no more than 1-1/2 cups per person).

Jook Chicken Porridge
Serves 4

Rice porridge, also known as congee or jook is eaten for breakfast, lunch and late-night snacks. The porridge can be cooked in water or broth and served with bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken, beef, duck or fish as well as a variety of condiments. The favorite condiment served with rice porridge is finely chopped Sichuan preserved vegetable, which adds heat and spice to the quiet flavors of the porridge. The slow cooking transforms the rice into a creamy, thick comfort soup. White cut chicken is sold in Chinese delis that sell roast duck or soy sauce chicken. The chicken is poached in a very unusual style, and should be juicy, flavorful and never dry. There is also a recipe available in The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. Of course the homemade is far superior to store-bought.
  • 1/2 cup long grain rice
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 quart homemade chicken broth
  • 2 ozs Sichuan preserved vegetable
  • 8 ozs White Cut Chicken, store-bough or homemade
  • 1 cup finely shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
  • Cilantro sprigs
  1. Wash the rice in several changes of cold water. In a 2-quart saucepan, soak the rice overnight, at room temperature, in 3 cups cold water with 1/4 tespoon oil. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the porridge is almost smooth.
  2. Rinse the Sichuan preserved vegetable in cold water until the red chili paste coating is removed, and pat dry. Finely chop to make about 1/3 cup and place in a small heatproof bowl. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully pour hot oil over the preserved vegetable. The oil will make a crackling sound as it hits the vegetable.
  3. Chop the chicken into bit-size pieces. Divide the lettuce among 4 large soup bowls. Ladle the porridge into bowls. Top with the chicken and sprinkle with the preserved vegetable and oil. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve immediately.

Jet Tila and his family are the owners of Bangkok Market. Our Thai food correspondent introduces us to a Vietnam House ( 626-282-6327; 710 W Las Tunas Dr), a new restaurant in San Gabriel where you can have a national specialty: Seven Courses of Beef.

By the way, in addition to Jet's classes at Sur La Table and New School of Cooking, on Saturday, July 15 (10:30am-1pm), he'll be teaching a class on "Noodles and Vegetarian Cooking" -- hot noodles, cold noodles, rice noodles, bean noodles, and pan-fried noodles, plus several delicious vegetarian dishes. Best of all, they'll all be served for lunch! The $65 cost includes take-home materials and lunch! A credit card or check is required to reserve a space (the class is limited to 15 participants) at the Grand Star Jazz Club at 943 Sun Mun Way in Chinatown's Central Plaza (947-951 N Broadway). Refunds will only be made if a cancellation is received 72 hours before the event. Mail checks to L.A. Chinatown Business Council at 727 N. Broadway, Suite 208, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Check must be received by 7/10.) Or, use your credit card and pay with PayPal at www.ChinatownLA.com. For more information, call (213) 680-0243.

Anthony Dias Blue, author of Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006, lets us in on the wines he's drinking now. He recommends:

Santa Barbara Pinots:

  • Sanford's new label Alma Rosa
  • Cathy Joseph's label Fiddlehead
  • Sea Smoke
  • Melville
  • Flying Goat
  • Tantara

  • New Zealand Savignon Blancs
  • Whitehaven
  • Villa Maria
  • Brancott

  • Carl Chu, our Chinese Food Finder, has written a new book called The Search for Sushi.

    John Gay, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy at the National Restaurant Association, brought us up to date on the immigration debate which has been raging in Washington and around the country for months now. Millions of people have taken to the streets in protest. May 1, 2006, was "the Day without an Immigrant," where thousands boycotted by not showing up to work and school. Whatever is decided, perhaps no entity has a larger stake in immigration reform than restaurants.

    Alex Prud'homme, nephew of Julia Child, speaks about the book he wrote with her, My Life in France. It is Julia's reminiscence about the years she and her husband Paul (Prud'homme's great uncle) lived in Paris, Marseille and Provence.