I've been on something of a noodle kick lately. They're cheap, they're easy and they're versatile. And by versatile I mean you can use and abuse them in a plethora of ways that might appall any number of purists out…

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Momofuku, too

Ginger scallion noodles ┬ęDPaul Brown

Oh, the kerfuffle over a couple of high-profile New York chefs dragging out that tiresome trope: Bashing on San Francisco’s food scene. Back in October, at the New York Food & Wine Festival, media darling David Chang and media whore Anthony Bourdain had an affable banter, calling bull**** on various aspects of their industry, including themselves. One of Chang’s salvos was that, “there’s only a handful of restaurants that are manipulating food … ****ing every restaurant in San Francisco is serving figs on a plate
with nothing on it.” Later, Bourdain referred to Alice Waters as “Pol Pot in a muumuu,” since she evidently killed off a couple million people in her Berkeley kitchen.

Nablo09.90x33 First of all, ha ha! Funny! No, really! And any San Francisco foodie types who got their panties in a bunch over this need to grow a sense of humor. But it’s funny like pull-my-finger kind of funny. It’s a joke we’ve heard a million times before, from that corny old uncle who still thinks it’s as fresh and high-larious as the first time he told it decades ago.

Anyway, the whole point of our cuisine of unmanipulated food is that we have access to some of the best, freshest and most flavorful ingredients available anywhere. Why manipulate perfection?

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Black Spanish Radish

Black Spanish radish

The problem with being a food blogger is that people assume you know what to do with all kinds of crazy ingredients. The upside is that you occasionally end up with crazy ingredients to figure out what to do with.

Such was the case this past weekend when we inherited a black Spanish radish from her CSA box, along with some kale and bok choy. “If anyone knows what to do with it,” she said, “you two would.” Why, of course we do.

OK, no we don’t, or didn’t. Admittedly, at first I was intimidated by this new creature, this charcoal-black, apostrophic, striated monster the size of both fists. But it’s just a radish, right?

As a matter of fact, yes, it sort of is. A big, black radish. That it’s also evidently Spanish is beside the point. But a quick Googling uncovered a trove of recipes for said radish, from Mariquita Farms, no doubt where this beast came from in the first place.

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Stalking the wily tamarind paste

So yesterday I had it in my head — and once I have something in my head, I will move the heavens and earth to make it so — to make the always-satisfying Salad of Pain. I’ve made it a few times before, and it has established itself as a mainstay in our mid-week menus. I’ve found it to be quick, easy and tasty — all qualifiers of good weeknight fare.

Now, in the past, I’ve foregone the tamarind paste because I was too damned lazy to go out and get it. I’ve just subbed in some lime juice for tartness and astringency. This time, however, I decided to try to stick to the actual recipe, so I was hell bent for leather to find the stuff. A quick consultation with my friend Anita, who cooks a fair amount of Thai food, prompted me to make an excursion to the fabled 99 Ranch.


I’ve never been to 99 Ranch before. I expected a kaleidoscopic array of magnificently foreign and indecipherable product labels; unidentifiable smells both appetizing and otherwise; and the occasional glance askance at the lone guailo staring with unusual intensity at shelves full of obviously mundane product. I was not disappointed.

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