Friday, September 28, 2012

Texas Roadhouse Rolls

If you've never been to Texas Roadhouse, I'd say go just for the complimentary rolls they leave on the table after they seat you. They're fluffy, chewy, delicious and come with this cinnamon butter that makes them incredibly delicious. I followed the exact recipe from the Eat Cake for Dinner blog (divided in half) so this is another one of my posts where it's purely a photo diary and there are no instructions.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tofu Stew

A while ago, I did a post on silken tofu stew but today's post is just regular tofu stew. It's pretty much the same thing except I used a firm tofu because I was in the mood for a firmer texture tofu.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb tofu (firm or soft or whatever you prefer)
1-1/2 tablespoons hot pepper flakes (gochugaru - adjust to your spice tolerance; 1 teaspoon for mild, 3 tablespoons for fiery hot)
1 tablespoon oil (olive, canola, vegetable, any neutral-flavor oil)
1-1/2 cups water or broth
1/2 cup frozen seafood (to flavor the stock; frozen shrimp or a piece of chicken or beef or pork would also work)
1/2 cup chopped kimchi with the juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 Korean long hot pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy the pepper actually is - sometimes they're really mild and other times they'll set your eyebrows on fire)
1/2 tablespoon hot pepper paste (gochujang)
1 teaspoon fermented bean paste (dwenjang) - miso is an acceptable substitution
1/2 cup chopped squash (I used zucchini)
1 egg, room temperature
Start by heating oil in a pot (I used a stone pot that's specifically for making jjigae) and add hot pepper flakes and garlic. Stir to coat everything evenly in oil and wait for the pot to heat up enough to allow ingredients to begin sizzling. Add in water (or broth) immediately so that the hot pepper flakes don't burn. Add in seafood, kimchi, salt, hot pepper, hot pepper paste, and bean paste. Stir to dissolve the pastes and to combine all ingredients.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

DIY: Glass Jar Labels

Ikea has some great plain-looking jars that are great for storing things like flour, pasta, rice, and anything that deserves to be in an air-tight, see-through container. I have a collection of about 10 (or more??) so far and though it's quite obvious what the contents are (at least to me) I thought it would be fun DIY project to add labels. I did a lot of brainstorming before I decided on a method.
  • I thought about using etching paint but it's toxic and I didn't want to choose a method where I'd have to empty the jars before application because I'm lazy.
  • I thought about chalkboard paint but I didn't like the idea of smudging the chalk on the labels with use.
  • I considered printing labels on clear label paper (like this blog) but I didn't like the idea of having a sticker on the jars. If the corners started to peel, I'd probably go insane because I have OCD and anxiety about things not being in place.
  • My sister suggested we use paper tags but I thought they'd get stained or rip or wrinkled with all the potential messes lurking around every kitchen corner. Also, though the tags could be laminated, you wouldn't see the tags just at a glance - you'd have to go and pick it up and look at it.
So finally, after months (seriously, it was literally months) of going back and forth and indecisiveness, a few weekends ago I told myself I HAD to make a decision. I decided to use stencils and glass paint because I thought it would be the simplest, quickest, easiest to touch up method.

Here's what you'll need:


I picked up the paint, foam brushes, and stencil from Michaels. The paint was $5, the pack of 10 brushes was $5 (they also sell individual ones for $0.99) and the stencil was $3.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gyro Pita

I've heard gyro pronounced a million ways - "yeer-o" or "jeer-o" or "jheer-o" or "jie-ro" - and anytime I order it, I'm hesitant in choosing how to pronounce it because 97% of the time, the person taking my order says, "okay, one gyro coming up" and pronounces it NOT the way I did when I placed my order. So the other day when I was craving gyros, instead of going to the Greek place in my neighborhood to face the pronunciation humiliation, my solution was to just make gyros at home.

If you don't know, gyro is a ground meat that's spiced and then roasted on a vertical rotisserie - I'm sure you've seen them spinning in the windows of many Mediterranean restaurants (and I saw many when I was in Istanbul). The meat is shaved off of the spit to order and it's usually shoved in a yummy fluffy pita along with tsatsiki and tomatoes and cucumbers and feta. And the reason it's so good is because it's moist but crispy at the same time, which comes down to the cooking method. But personally, I don't have a vertical rotisserie, nor do I have a horizontal rotisserie so I had to come up with my own method and thankfully, it was a success!

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 lb ground lamb (or you could use a mixture of beef and lamb)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 2 tablespoons dried)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 small onion
5 slices of bacon

flatbread pita
tsatsiki sauce, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, crumbled feta, parsley, diced onions, hot sauce, and any other toppings you might like
(pita and tsatsiki recipes can be found in my chicken souvlaki pita post)
This rosemary came fresh from my garden. I cannot tell you how yummy fresh rosemary smells. If I just barely poked at the plant in my garden, it would release a lovely herby piney yummy scent. Chop up the rosemary nice and fine so it can speckle the meat and look pretty but also so that the flavor permeates the whole block of meat. I think lamb and rosemary go incredibly well together. They're one of those obvious pairings like wine and cheese or cheese and bread or mozzarella and basil.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frisée Salad

Frisée is a type of lettuce related to endives. It has curly leaves that start off as a pale yellow at the base and transitions to a vibrant green. They have a v. slightly bitter taste - not even close to the bitterness of radicchio - and I love the texture because they center stalks are crunchy but the soft leaves are delicate.

Frisée salad, as I've usually seen it, is usually served with bacon and some sort of acidic mustard-y dressing and eggs, either soft-boiled or poached. The eggs part sometimes seems like too much effort for a simple salad so I usually skip that but I always stay true to the bacon and mustard.

Ingredients [serves 4]
6 loosely packed cups of frisée
2 slices of bacon (or more if you like)
1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped (slivered almonds would be acceptable - I just don't like them myself)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon hot pepper jelly
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Here's the pretty frisée:
Start by cooking the bacon. I like to cook them in a tiny frying pan so I cut the strips in half to make them fit. Place bacon in a cold pan and turn the heat on medium high. Starting with a cold pan helps the bacon release a lot of fat and crisp up quickly without burning. Once the bacon's cooked, set it aside both the bacon pieces and the leftover rendered fat to cool.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coconut Peas & Rice

Here's another recipe inspired by my trip to Provo. At the restaurant Seven we had a cassoulet with coconut peas and rice. I'd seen coconut peas and rice recipes before and usually the peas are black eyed peas but this version had regular peapod peas and it was so good. So of course, I did a bit of experimenting and came up with this:

Ingredients [serves 4]
1 cup jasmine rice (or basmati or plain long grain)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter (it's up to you)
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup peas (I used frozen)
This is coconut milk. Coconut milk is made grating the coconut "meat" and then squeezing the juice out of it. Give it a good shake before you open the can because the little solid bits usually separate from the liquid.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Porridge 닭죽 (Dahk-Jook)

Dahk jook is one of my favorite meals because it reminds me of my mama; oh, and it's delicious, especially when the crisp fall weather starts to roll in. It could be cumbersome to make because the traditional recipe says you have to deal with a giant chicken but I make it with my own shortcuts so it's easy and low-maintenance.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs (3 or 4 thighs)
8 cups water
10 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt (1 teaspoon for the stock, 1 teaspoon for the chicken)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 scallions, chopped
3 cups sticky white rice (sushi rice)
First, begin by rinsing and soaking the rice. Soaking the rice means it will cook faster all the way through the center without becoming overly mushy. And even though this is porridge, we don't want it to turn into a paste-like mess. The rice grains should still resemble rice grains in the end.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ah, the grilled cheese sandwich, a.k.a. the most versatile, easy, sandwich to make and you're pretty much guaranteed to have the ingredients at home. Everyone has their own techniques, preferred cheese, and style of grilling the sandwich, but if you've never tried shoving a little pesto in your grilled cheese, I think you should try it. I won't push you or pressure you; I'm only asking you to consider it.

Ingredients:
bread
cheese
butter
tomatoes
pesto!
(add some bacon if you want to lose the vegetarian aspect)
For my cheese choice, I chose Havarti (did you like that 'ch' alliterating there?) because it's soft, creamy, not overly salty, and it melts really well. It's a Danish semi-soft cheese made with cow's milk. If you've never had it, it's definitely worth trying. Next time you do wine & cheese night, get some Havarti with dill, it's really good with grapes and water crackers. For this sandwich, I like to slice the block into thick-ish pieces to lay on my sandwich - maybe something between 1/4" and 1/2" - since Havarti melts well. CALORIE ALERT! If I were using a harder cheese, like cheddar, I might grate it to ensure that all of it will melt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pesto Pasta

There's an episode of Full House where Vicki cooks for the whole family - do you remember watching Full House? She makes a pesto pasta and Michelle, who's never seen this food before, eats her dinner by taking a napkin, wiping the pesto off each noodle, and then eating the now sauce-less noodle. Shame on her because pesto is SO GOOD.

I had some pesto leftover yesterday that wouldn't fit in my little jar so I made an individual portion of angel hair and tossed it with pesto. Delicious and simple but it looks relatively impressive and you could definitely serve this to guests, even vegetarian ones.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Pesto

Remember my garden post? Well, if you don't, I'll remind you with this:
Basil is basically taking over the garden. It's mostly my fault for not using it more often and now I have so much of it. I don't like waste so I HAD to do something with it and the obvious solution was to make pesto. Pesto is an Italian sauce that gets its name from the word pestare (Italiano, baby) which means to pound. Back before food processors and blenders and even electricity, old fashioned chefs had to use a mortar and pestle to mash stuff together - e.g. basil and garlic and oil. You can buy pesto, already made and sealed in little plastic tubs, in most grocery stores but why buy it when it's so easy to make?

Let me just start by saying, I don't ever use an exact recipe when I'm making basil pesto. Instead, I just gauge how much stuff I'll need by how much basil I've got... and that's why my ingredients use the term "handful." Cooking is an art, not a science (but baking is a science) so don't worry about being so exact. Besides, recipes like these were meant to be adjusted to each individual's palate; so if you like things salty, add more salt and if you're lactose intolerant, forego the cheese, and so on.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tea at the Plaza

My dear friend, D, suggested we have tea at the Plaza Hotel so a few Sundays ago, with reservations made, we met up in the city for a lovely lady's lunch. Most patrons were dressed elegantly, women and girls in dresses, men in button downs and pressed slacks, but I did see a dude grown man, in cargo shorts, flip flops, and one of those three-in-a-pack white undershirt-esque t-shirts. So yes, it's probably more proper (and aesthetically pleasing) to wear something you might wear to impress your significant other('s parents) or an outfit your mother would set out on Sunday morning for you to wear to church, but no one will kick you out if you look like you just rolled out of bed.

I like to take photos of ceilings (when they're interesting, obviously) and the stained glass vaulted ceiling is really lovely. Plus, it lets in the nice light, which is quite flattering.
I also like to take photos of chairs. The decor here is v. reminiscent of the gilded era - ornate, plush, and it makes you feel French and fancy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wild Rice Pilaf

And yet another post on yummy side dishes to go with steak; this time, it's a carbohydrate. You could go for a traditional baked potato or garlic mashed potato but I like rice pilaf, except this time I'm making it with wild rice. I like wild rice because it has a more interesting texture and I'm all about texture.

I used the same technique as my previous rice pilaf post, except use wild rice and use butter instead of olive oil.

Ingredients:
1 cup rice
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 small sweet onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon butter

Start by heating a saucepan and add onions and butter. Sweat the onions for a few minutes until they start to become translucent. Add rice and stir to coat each grain in butter. Add chicken stock, stir, and cover the pan. Leave alone to cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the rice has absorbed all of the stock.
Fluff and serve.
Here is the recipe page, for your convenience:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Haricots Verts

Haricots verts are French green beans. You might see both in your grocery store and say, "Um, aren't these the same?" Well, yes and no. They taste pretty much the same but French beans are a bit thinner and longer than the American kind (kind of a parallel with the people too, no?). I personally like French beans a bit more than the American ones because it takes less cooking time to get them tender and they cook more evenly. Sometimes American beans will still be crunchy in the middle.

These would also be lovely with the steak from Monday's post, or any steak for that matter, or chicken or fish or pork chops; the list could go on for (almost) ever.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb haricots verts
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

I haven't seen bulk French beans v. often but I do see these bagged ones next to the regular bagged green beans all the time. I like the pre-trimmed kind because it's a time saver.
Sometimes, if I'm not being a big lazy bum, I'll trim off the little pointy ends too. Nothing wrong with eating them, I just don't like them that much because I think they're ugly. Boil a pot of water, salt it, and then dump in the beans for 30 seconds. Drain immediately.
Plate the beans, add a pat of butter, and sprinkle on some salt. Give them a little toss before you serve and that's it.
Here's the recipe page:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mushrooms

Got mushrooms and don't know how to use them?
I was tempted to make this an instruction-less post but I need to say this one thing: let your mushrooms brown before you add salt because otherwise, they'll give off a bunch of water and turn a sickly grey and never turn golden and beautiful. Salt them just before you plate them. Other than that, I think that the above photo is pretty self-explanatory. This would go great with yesterday's steak.
This dish is so simple but I'm including the recipe page in case you need it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Steak Marinade

I'm usually a "steak purist." I don't know if that's a real term but my definition is a person who lets steak be steak; just a little salt and pepper and that's it. But a few years ago, a friend threw a dinner party and grilled some marinated steak (among other things) and it was delicious. Since then, every once in a while, I'll be in the mood for a marinated steak, specifically, my friend's special marinade. And what happens when I get a food craving? I must sate it.

Ingredients [makes a few tablespoons of marinade, enough for 1 big manly steak]:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (adjust to your liking)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
+ steak

Start by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together.
I found this lovely rib-eye in the freezer that was begging to be eaten so I left it in the bag and set it in the fridge overnight to defrost. The next day I poured the marinade directly into the bag and let the steak marinate another 24 hours. A whole day of marinating is excessive; 4 hours is probably plenty of time but if you don't have 4 hours, you can let it marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour - depending on how squeamish you are about bacterial growth.
When you're ready to cook the steak, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes (unless you were marinating it at room temperature already). This way, you're not slamming an ice cold slab of meat onto a hot skillet. In that scenario, I imagine the poor piece of meat immediately seizing and getting tough and chewy and the pan losing all its heat and starting to shiver. Then the meat turns grey instead of brown because the pan wasn't hot enough and then I cry myself to sleep over a waste of a steak.

So, I take my steak that's been sitting at room temperature for 10 minutes, I heat up a cast iron skillet with a little butter, and I place it gently so as not to splatter hot butter on my own face. Three to four minutes on each side for medium-rare (for a steak this thick at least) and that's it.
If you're not drooling over this photo there's something wrong with you... or you're a vegetarian, in which case, I'm sorry you had to see this. Bits of parsley, bits of garlic, lots of yum.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Updates on my Garden

Out-of-control-and-starting-to-flower basil, hot peppers, and cute little not-yet-ripe tomatoes.
I actually saw bees poking at the basil flowers so there are bees out there that are making basil honey!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Meatloaf

Everyone and their mother has a meatloaf recipe. Well, I have one too. It's nothing fancy, but I love it because there's Sriracha involved, and that makes my stomach roar.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1.25 lbs ground beef (I like 90%-10% ground sirloin)
1 egg
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 potato roll or 2 slices of potato bread or any other type of fluffy bread, torn into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Sriracha + 2 tablespoons for the sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup + 2 tablespoon for the sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar (for the sauce)
+ other seasonings you like and think will taste good in this, e.g. garlic, garlic powder, Worcestershire, soy sauce, chopped parsley, etc.
Mix meatloaf ingredients together (beef, egg, onion, bell pepper, bread, ketchup, and Sriracha). I added a few extra things - garlic & wine seasoning (which I "borrowed" from The Melting Pot) and minced garlic. Don't mix too much and don't squeeze the meat to mix it or else you'll have a really tough and gross meatloaf.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coconut Pie

I've got an updated, prettier post if you're interested. My recipe has changed ever so slightly but it's just as delicious!

Coco Bistro in Providenciales, has the best coconut pie ever. My sister and I were freaking out because it was so delicious. Naturally, when we got back to the States, we decided to make our own. The reason the pie was so good was because the custard was really rich but light and super coconutty, the crust had pecans in it (or so we suspect) and the whipped topping helped cut the sweetness a bit.

It took a little bit of experimentation but I think we were successful in making a pie that was almost as good as Coco Bistro's.

Ingredients:
the custard
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups cream of coconut, sweetened (about 3/4ths of a 15 oz. container)
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
the crust
6 graham crackers
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
the topping
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Start by making the crust. In a zip-top baggie, combine pecans and graham crackers and crush with a meat pounder or frying pan, or even a telephone book, until it's nice and crumby. Meanwhile, melt the butter (be lazy and use the microwave like moi).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Madeleines

Madeleine (pronunciation: mad-lenn) are a type of Genoise sponge cake baked in the shape of a shell. Genoise cakes are defined by the lack of a leavening agent; the recipes just rely on the air whipped into the batter itself. So if you see a recipe that calls for baking powder, it's a phony!

I love madeleines because they're delicate, have crispy edges, and can be made in a variety of flavors. I'd tried almond ones countless times before but over the summer, at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach, I got to try a lemony variety, which were really good. So of course, when I saw a madeleine pan while shopping at HomeGoods a few weeks ago, I bought one and made a batch and it was one of the best decisions I made (at least that day).


Ingredients [yields 1 dozen]:
**Madeleine pan** (I bought mine for $8)
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup) + 1/2 tablespoon for greasing
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup flour
zest of 1 whole lemon
powdered sugar for garnish
What's so special about a madeleine pan? You could try and make this recipe using a muffin/cupcake tin but I'll just save you from the shame right now by saying that though they will still taste great, the texture will be literally like eating a sponge - no variation in texture. The shell shape is ideal because deeper center makes the cake fluffy and poofy but the shallow sides yield lovely crispy edges. Those crispy edges are what I'm all about.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eggplant & Tomato Salad

Happy Labor Day! Days off from work I like to either be super productive and clean the house, make tons of yummy food, and bake a complicated dessert or I'll be lazy and do absolutely nothing - it's never something in between. This is a recipe that follows the latter attitude.

I love eggplants but I hate tomatoes. Luckily, we had some eggplant in the house but unluckily, we also had tomatoes that needed to be used up before they went bad. This was a spur of the moment dish so I don't have a photo diary of the process but it's easy enough that unless you're really that terrible in the kitchen, it won't be hard to put the missing pieces together in your brain.

Ingredients:
1 baby eggplant, diced (small eggplants have less seeds and are more tender)
2 cups sliced/diced tomatoes (whatever you got - I used grape)
10 basil leaves, cut into ribbons (chiffonade, remember?)
1 tablespoon olive oil + drizzle
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
sprinkle of pepper

Start by sauteing the diced eggplant in a pan with olive oil. Cook until each piece is tender and they get a bit browned.
In a bowl, add diced tomatoes and basil...
... and then the cooked eggplant.
Add another drizzle of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy.
You know, it also wouldn't be a terrible idea to toss this with some pasta.
Also, I apologize for the lighting in this photo. YEESH. It's v. yellow and harsh. I'll try better next time; I promise.

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