Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I am no photographer and thank the Lord every day that Instagram has filters to make up for my inadequacy, but I fall in love with this photo of AOC's Carbonara Risotto every time I look at it. It is so sunshine-y, but you can tell it will hold you down on the chilliest of evenings.
I took a few liberties with the original recipe - here's what I would and wouldn't do it again, because while I rarely repeat recipes, this one's going on that short list.
- If I had one complaint, it would be that the dish wasn't porky enough. That's my fault - I couldn't find guanciale, and didn't want to open up a packet of bacon for 2 oz., so I just used 4 oz. pancetta.
- The peas didn't look great, so I subbed in an equal amount of coin-sliced asparagus. So spring-y.
- I didn't bother with the cream, and cut the Parmesan in half. Actually probably wouldn't have missed the cheese - those egg yolks do their jobs in making this ridiculously rich.
- Shower on that pepper. After all, that's why it's called carbonara. Makes all the difference in the world.
slightly adapted from Suzanne Goin's The A.O.C. Cookbook
1 T. olive oil
4 oz. finely diced pancetta
1 c. finely diced white onion
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. thyme leaves
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/4 c. white wine
5-6 c. vegetable stock
1 c. asparagus, sliced into coins
6 large egg yolks, beaten
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 T. chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the pancetta, and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the pancetta is slightly crisped but still tender. Add the onion, garlic and thyme leaves, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the rice, 1 t. salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring continuously for about 5 minutes, until the rice just begins to toast, and each grain of rice has a white dot at its center.
2. Pour in the white wine, and once it has evaporated, quickly add 1 c. of stock, stirring continuously. When the stock is completely absorbed, begin adding the liquid in 1-cup batches, stirring continuously. Wait for each batch of liquid to be absorbed before adding the next. After 4 c., taste the rice for doneness. Continue cooking until al dente.
3. When the rice is almost done, stir in the asparagus, cook for a minute or two, and then turn off the heat. Quickly stir in the egg yolks, the Parmesan and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
This recipe reminds me of collegiate me, who thought pleather pants and sequin halter tops were a good idea.
I know. Cheap hook. But now that you're here, hear me out.
Perhaps we danced a little too excitedly while pre-partying for a night out. Or more likely because the aforementioned halter tops came from a poor man's version of Forever 21 (yes, clothes do come cheaper), but we would find purple leopard-print (yes, kids - it gets worse before it gets better) sequins in the most random places in our dorm room months after wearing the offending top. I'm pretty sure they even showed up in our apartment well after we moved out of freshman housing, and long after that top met its only appropriate fate - the trash can. It was truly the gift that kept on giving.
Back story, over. Cut to...
I just got back from an extended weekend away, and had two main orders of business: 1) detox from what may have been an entire key lime pie eaten over the course of 4 days, and 2) clean out the fridge to prepare for new menu plans. Cabbage, check. Tofu, check. Frozen edamame, check.
I suppose it's not entirely detoxifying to start with fried tofu, but the oil usage was fairly minimal. Everything else was a vegetable, and we were going vegan and gluten-free after a weekend of carbs and meat. Good enough.
Tofu-frying went off without a hitch. Then came the mustard seeds.
Now, I've toasted mustard seeds in oil before, but I guess never in oil that hot. They went everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Stuck-to-my-feet-in-the-kitchen everywhere. Bounced-over-the pass-through-bar everywhere. Ow-my-face! everywhere. Are-mustard-seeds-poisonous-to-dogs? everywhere.
The first thing I thought of was the sequins. I mean, it was a hard flashback. I just wanted you to be able to share in the experience.
The second thing I thought of was that Duchess was going to Hoover up this thing she thought was food off the floor, so I best get to cleaning. In went the cabbage to cook, and over I went to grab cleaning supplies. The consolation was that the spice mix was incredibly aromatic, and provided great accompaniment to the cleaning process.
Alone, this was great for what I needed. Add rice if you feel you need more. My only change - I might just use powdered mustard next time.
Spiced Cabbage with Tofu + Edamame
slightly adapted from Saveur
1 19-oz. package firm tofu
1/4 c. cornstarch
4 T. canola oil
2 t. mustard seeds
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground turmeric
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely chopped
4 c. thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
1 1/2 c. frozen edamame
salt, to taste
1. Cut the tofu into fourths, then cut each fourth in four again. Slice each sixteenth into 3 slices. Line a cutting board with 4 sheets of paper towels, lay the tofu pieces flat, stack on 4 more sheets, then top with another cutting board. Let tofu drain for 30 minutes, changing paper towels halfway through.
2. Put the cornstarch into a large wide dish. Dredge the tofu in the cornstarch, and tap off excess.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the tofu in batches, turning occasionally, until light golden brown all over, about 5 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large, paper towel–lined plate.
4. Carefully add the mustard seeds to the oil remaining in the pan and cook, stirring, until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the ginger, coriander, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder and jalapeno, and cook, stirring and scraping until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook, covered, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the edamame, and cook until heated through, 1–2 minutes more. Cut each tofu slice into fourths, and toss to combine. Salt to taste, and serve immediately.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I understand we had a tornado warning in Los Angeles last night. And that Bob is down.
Meanwhile, I'm taking an extended weekend in a place where they're shocked it dipped down to 65 degrees the other day (these are my kind of people). I'm vacationing like it's my job, and eating accordingly. (Armando, turn away now). Matty and I may have each had our own chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick, and shared a regular slice of key lime pie over the course of the day yesterday. What? It was for science. For the record, we disagree with Huffington Post's key lime suggestion, and offer that you should go to the Key Lime Factory instead for your pie fix.
However, I woke up with an overwhelming sense of guilt, and a little bit of a tummy ache, and immediately rolled out the yoga mat for a session plus a plyometric-y workout. I'm still not sure it's fair to need to be in a bathing suit as early as March 1st, but I do know that putting on a bikini is the number one way to prevent snacking. Try it - wear it around the house, and see if you don't put down that leftover waffle (I'm not speaking from last week's experience or anything. Besides, that waffle had gone stale).
But this is the kind of stuff I should be eating - a delicious Cauliflower Couscous, chock-full of delightful vegetables. I almost feel like calling it couscous makes it seem like it's trying to trick you into doing something good for yourself at the expense of your tastebuds, when in actuality, you're just choosing a nice salad over something that's bad for you.
I will say one thing - grating cauliflower on a box grater is annoying and messy. Just roughly chop - you're not really trying to make couscous. And this is endlessly adaptable - here's what I did:
Raw Cauliflower Salad
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen
makes 6 cups
3 c. cauliflower, finely chopped
1/2 c. carrots, finely diced
1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 c. packed basil leaves, chopped
1/4 c. packed parsley, chopped
1/4 c. finely diced marinated mushrooms
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. I didn't feel I needed any dressing, but feel free to add a little olive oil and lemon juice if you need it.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Don't let the photo fool you. When you poach fish in olive oil, no Instagram filter can help you remove that sheen. It tastes better than it looks, trust me.
Some of the issue (not that it's an actual issue), is that my halibut fillets were super thin - only about 3/4ths of an inch. A more hefty fillet would have the time to nicely sear as directed in the original recipe, and be absolutely more photogenic. However, with these cooking so quickly, I decided to poach them so they get the maximum flavor from the infused oil without spending quite as much time in the pan.
Do note that you have to allow time for the oil to steep - I started mine this morning, because frankly, I fell asleep in front of the TV last night after a full-on Pudding Truck food coma, and couldn't bear a stovetop detour before going to actual bed. Thankfully, bringing a cup of oil to near-boil takes little to no time - I did it while doing the dishes I also didn't do last night - and then, while you're toiling away at work, your olive oil becomes a ginger-y and lemongrass-y delight. That you can then make dinner in about 5 minutes with.
Fennel-Infused Olive Oil-Poached Halibut
slightly adapted from Saveur
For the infused oil:
Peel of 1 orange, cut into large strips
3 whole stalks lemongrass, trimmed and chopped
1 3" piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
½ bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
1 c. olive oil
For the fish:
1 lb. halibut fillets
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine the orange peel, lemongrass, ginger, chopped fennel, and oil in a small pan. Bring to a near boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and steep overnight. Strain and reserve oil.
2. Season the fish with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 6 T. of the infused oil over high heat and sear fish on both sides until done to your liking. Serve immediately.
Monday, February 24, 2014
"Oh my God, this is so gross. You have to try it!"
With the most fleeting of thoughts flashing through my brain of if-you-were-my-friend-why-would-you-want-me-to-try-something-gross, I'm the girl that reaches over to see for herself. Sure, there's some snobbery involved (my mental justification being I'm-sure-I'd-like-it-since-my-palate-is-more-sophisticated-than-yours-wow-I'm-an-asshole-for-thinking-that-even-to-myself), but for better or worse, I don't like being told how I'm supposed to feel. Luckily, the regrets from living this way have been outweighed by the horizon-expanding experiences.
(Sorry, I've been listening to a slew of new music that has created some very introspective times. Not like I would ever be able to pick it back up if I were to drop it like it's hot these days, but can I please have a song to dance like an idiot to? I'm over this faux depression).
Anyway, back to why you come here - the food. So unfortunately, I didn't eat uni for a long time because the only response I've ever had to it is that it's gross. I honestly can't remember if I've even had it before I went for it at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo last year. If I did, that transcendent experience surely erased any previous memories of having the stuff.
I'm been on an uni-eating rampage ever since. The latest iteration was via a special uni pasta at Terroni. What? Uni and spaghetti? Say no more.
Since that fine evening, I've dreamed of making my own. And when I found out that a nearby Asian grocery store carried fresh uni, a plan was devised. Recipes were researched. I ended up going with the very first Google result for "uni spaghetti" - from the basically perfect blog Spoon Fork Bacon.
Sadly, I was looking for something much saucier, so below is what I would try next time - halving the amount of pasta called for. In hindsight, I could have saved myself from that problem by just adding pasta a bit at a time to the sauce instead of jumping both feet first and dumping the sauce on the whole pile of spaghetti.
I'm sure there's a life lesson in there as well, but this was still pretty tasty, so I'm going back for seconds while pondering if there's such a thing as "too soon" to try another recipe. (Eric Ripert, you wouldn't ever steer me wrong, would you?)
slightly adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
8 oz. spaghetti
4 oz. uni
3 T. heavy cream
4 T. unsalted butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste
a few sprinkles of shredded nori for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, puree the uni and cream together until smooth. Strain the mixture and whisk in the unsalted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Garnish with nori and serve immediately.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
I think I've talked about my food grid before. It's my delightfully OCD way of keeping track of all of your food allergies and dislikes so that I can make sure you enjoy your dinner party experience at my house.
I'm actually on V2.0 because somehow my original list got swallowed up by technology - when I opened it up, I realized that two of my very best gal pals from times as awkward as high school and barely-legal clubbing were not on the list!
However, it is now noted that Monique is sensitive to spicy foods, and Julie doesn't like mushrooms or olives, and I have to invite her to my next Feast of the Seven Fishes for her to try to find one she might like.
Add to that the girl who is my best friend even though she doesn't eat cheese, and a new friend who is vegan, and the fires of my love for a good culinary challenge were flamed.
I thought about doing a pasta bar since I already had red pepper hazelnut pesto (vegan) in the fridge, and could probably come up with a nice bolognese for the omnivores as well as a couple other options, but I happen to be doing really well in training this week, and even though I am wadding from the torture of doing all the squats in the world yesterday, I'm trying to use the tremors as a reminder that all the squats in the world do not entitle me to all the pasta in the world.
So, let's do a polenta bar, instead!
It can be argued that polenta isn't that much better than pasta for my specific concerns, but although I adore polenta, I can portion-control it better than pasta. I can sit and eat an entire pound of pasta if given the opportunity. It's a not a brag; it's a shameful, shameful confession.
But let's think happy thoughts. Polenta = gluten-free. Coconut milk = calories and fat, but not the kind you get in milk and cheese. Here's my favorite recipe.
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
3 c. fine cornmeal
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Pour both cans of coconut milk into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Take one of the empty cans, and fill it four times with water and add to the pot. Bring to a boil.
2. Slowly add the cornmeal, and whisk thoroughly to prevent any clumping. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thickened to your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, or keep warm over a very low flame.
Now, let's start with the vegan bits (so we're going to be going counter-clockwise from 9 o'clock in that photo above. The first was a very simple spring sauté inspired by My New Roots - asparagus, rapini, leeks and fresh peas sauteed in walnut oil until they gave only slightly. The whole point was to balance out the other braises. This will make an excellent cold salad with some smoked salmon tomorrow. I'm stoked.
The vegan braise was a Black Bean Mole with Butternut Squash + Kale. It was stupendous. I altered the recipe to reflect stovetop cooking as my oven was otherwise occupied, but I don't think the dish suffered. I could have gone more chocolate-y, and maybe smoked paprika next time instead of regular paprika, but I thought the earthy black beans were a great complement to the sweet squash and kale.
Black Bean Mole with Butternut Squash + Kale
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
2 T. olive oil
12 oz. butternut squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 14-oz. cans of black beans, drained
3.5 oz. kale, sliced
1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes with their juice
2 t. paprika
1 oz. almonds, toasted and ground
2 oz. 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 c. vegetable broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot until shimmering. Add the butternut squash, onions and jalapenos, and saute until onions are caramelized. Add the garlic, and cook for 3 more minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for an hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.
The omnivore favorite was the short rib ragu. I mean, I could have told you that before anyone came over. It's a million ingredients, but all fairly manageable if you take the time for a mise en place. Completely worth the effort and time, especially if you live in a place where it's actually winter since the oven is on for 3 hours!
Short Rib Ragu
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
4 lbs. short ribs
salt and pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. fish sauce
half a 750-ml bottle red wine
1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
4 c. chicken broth
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season the ribs well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until shimmering. Brown the ribs in batches for 2 to 3 minutes per side; set aside.
3. Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery in the same pot until soft. Add the garlic, and stir until fragrant. Create a hot spot in the pot by moving the vegetables aside, leaving about a 3-inch circle bare. Add the tomato paste and fish sauce to the hot spot, and stir vigorously until caramelized, then stir this mixture into the vegetables.
4. Add the red wine to deglaze the pot and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Add the ribs back to the pot, then add enough chicken stock so the ribs are nearly covered.
5. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover tightly and braise in the oven for at least 3 hours, or until the ribs are fall-apart tender.
6. Remove the ribs from the braising liquid and set aside until cool enough to handle. When the ribs have cooled, remove and discard the bones and any large pieces of fat. Shred the beef and return it to the pot. Let cool to room temperature, skimming any large pools of fat from the surface, and refrigerate overnight. Reheat gently before serving.
And a dark horse of a braise - I'm not the biggest fan of chicken if it doesn't come fried and/or slathered in Frank's Red Hot, but everything about this was delicious. I didn't make the pear topping because I thought my crowd would find it weird in combination with everything else, but there was a little bit of pear essence laced in the chicken itself from the stuffing. It was enough to elevate just plain ol' chicken to something more pleasant.
Whole Chicken Braised with Pears + Rosemary
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
one 4-lb. chicken, giblets removed
salt and pepper
1 Bosc pear, cut into quarters
three 3-inch rosemary sprigs
2 T. butter, divided
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 c. finely chopped leek, white and pale green parts only
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
1 T. white wine vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Dry the chicken inside and out with paper towels. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with the pear quarters and 2 rosemary sprigs. Tie the two drumsticks together and set aside.
3. Heat 1 T. of butter and the olive oil in a medium ovenproof pot. When the butter stops foaming, lower the chicken breast side-down, and brown it without disturbing for about 4 minutes. Continue browning the chicken on all 4 sides, 12 to 18 minutes total. Remove the chicken to a large plate, and set aside.
4. Pour off the fat from the pot and discard. Wipe out any burnt specks from the bottom of the pan with a paper towel. Return the pot to medium heat, and add the remaining butter. Add the leek, shallots and remaining rosemary sprig, season to taste with salt and pepper, and saute until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. Pour in the wine, and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add the stock and white wine vinegar, and boil for 2 more minutes.
5. Return the chicken to the pot, along with any juices that have seeped out on to the plate. Cover the chicken with parchment paper, and set the lid in place. Braise in the lower third of the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted between the breast and thigh reads 170 degrees, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Baste every 20 minutes.
6. Carve the chicken and return to the pot. Stir well and serve.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Tonight is all about staples. Asian-y staples, but staples nonetheless.
The first - crab cakes. Always a nice appetizer, a must-have course for a Feast of the Seven Fishes, or just good to have as an entree with a salad as we did tonight. And this crab cake recipe is the one to end all crab cake recipes. The genius of it lies in using pureed shrimp as the binder rather than eggs. I love eggs, but I'm rather sensitive to them as a binder - I feel they turn everything into an omelette. No such issue here. Just fresh, light, purely seafood cakes, flavored up with some of my favorite flavors - lemongrass and shiso. The original recipe was green curry-inspired, with galangal and kaffir lime leaves, but I had no luck tracking those down, so I went the route I did below. I would like to try throwing in some green curry paste at another time now that I know how well the method works.
Lemongrass Crab Cakes
slightly adapted from Marc Matsumoto
1 lb. canned premium lump crab meat
1 1/2 oz. lemongrass, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 large shiso leaves
1 medium jalapeno, seeded
1/2 lb. shrimp
1/3 c. coconut cream
1 c. panko, divided
oil for frying
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemongrass, garlic, shiso, jalapeño, shrimp and coconut cream. Process until they form a smooth paste.
2. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp paste with the crab and 2/3 c. panko. Gently mix together until combined, being careful not to break up the chunks of crab.
3. Make 10 balls with the mixture (approximately 3 oz. each), and flatten them to form 3/4" thick cakes.
Put the remaining panko in a bowl, and coat both sides of the crab cakes.
4. Heat about 2 T. of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add a few crab cakes to the pan, and fry undisturbed until you can see the edges start to turn golden brown. If they are browning too fast, turn the heat down. Carefully flip them over using a spatula, and fry until the crab cake is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer should read 140 degrees in the center).
5. As they're done, transfer the crab cakes to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat as necessary. Serve immediately.
And the second staple - peanut sauce. I love peanut sauce. And I thought I had a perfect one. But this one is delightfully peanut butter-y (I did add an extra T. of peanut butter to the original recipe), and boy, is it ever thick. Just the perfect complement to hearty kale, and all matched up even better with the addition of an entire cup of mint leaves.
I put the salad leftovers way in the back of the fridge and plan on sneaking to the office with them before Matty even wakes up. Sorry, babe!
Kale + Mint Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
slightly adapted from Food52
For the salad:
7 oz. lacinato kale, finely shredded
1 c. fresh mint leaves, minced
For the dressing:
4 T. creamy peanut butter
3 T. warm water
3 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. dried chili flakes
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.
2. Add the kale and mint, and toss to thoroughly combine.