Wednesday, May 29, 2013

just like i remember

My favorite culinary thing happening in LA right now is BEP Vietnamese Kitchen's pop-up brunches. Bi-weekly events that started out at Franco on Melrose, and now at Daily Dose Cafe, they are stunning elevations of everyday Vietnamese home cooking that still manage to retain the charm of feeling like you're just eating family-style back in the SGV.

We scored a reservation to the first one, and I nearly invited Chef Connie home with us. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. I loved every thoughtful course, particularly the Chao Sang (Breakfast Rice Porridge - bacon, poached egg, sage brown butter sauce - get out of here) and Cha Ca Thanh Long, or Vietnamese Turmeric Fish. Knowing that I didn't want to mess with the perfection I remembered of the chao, I chose to try to recreate the fish.

My little Vietnamese grocery store only had whole catfish tails, and I didn't want to tackle filleting on a weeknight, so I turned to the ridiculously cheap salmon belly pieces on the shelf nearby. I now remember why I swore off using salmon belly - they are a bear to trim, and because of my lack of skill in the deboning department, we did have a couple surprises in a couple bites.

I'll definitely use catfish fillets next time, and I would reduce the fish sauce a bit. I thought it was a little too salty, but Matty loved it. I might also up the turmeric a bit (at the chagrin of my stained bowls and fingernails), but I feel the less-strong catfish won't overwhelm the spice the way I felt the salmon did. I would also up the dill - even though Matty hates dill, he'll take it cooked, and I think it makes the dish. I made way too much vermicelli, so this next experiment may be happening very soon.

Vietnamese Turmeric Fish
slightly adapted from The Culinary Chronicles
Serves 2

1 lb. salmon belly pieces, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 T. fish sauce
1 t. ground turmeric
2 T. minced garlic
1/2 T. minced ginger
2 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 c. diced white onion
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch segments
1/2 c. dill, roughly chopped
4 oz. vermicelli noodles, cooked according to package directions

1. In a large bowl, mix the fish sauce, turmeric, garlic and ginger. Add the fish and mix well. Let marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.

2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 T. of oil. Cook the onions until translucent. Add the green onions, and cook just until they start to lose their rawness, about another minute. Add the dill, and stir to wilt. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter.

3. Add the remaining T. of olive oil to the skillet. Remove the fish from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Pan-fry the fish until just cooked through and golden-brown, about 3 minutes per side. Plate the fish on the bed of vegetables. Serve with vermicelli noodles.

Monday, May 27, 2013

make someone happy

I hate showing up to barbecues/parties empty-handed, even if I know they're fancy, wonderfully-catered ones.

Today's offering are Cashew Blondies. Now, I'm not a huge blondies fan, but I originally bookmarked this recipe because it included pine nuts, which seemed interesting enough to trump the blondie thing. Unfortunately, I was out today, and didn't have time to go to the store, so I went the cashew route - slightly more unusual than the walnut/pecan substitution recommended, and anyway, I still had leftover pecan biscuits in the house.

Well, the short version of the story is that this recipe didn't change my mind about blondies, but it's a decent breakfast/tea-type of cake, and the recipients seemed to like them. Not one I'd try again, but hey, if it makes someone else happy...

Cashew Blondies
adapted from Serious Eats
makes one 9x13 pan

3/4 c. salted butter
2 c. brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped cashews

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, allowing 2-3 inches to extend over the sides. Lightly grease the foil.

2. Brown the butter in a large saucepan, being careful not to burn it. Add the brown sugar, and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking quickly after each addition. Add the flour and baking powder, and combine with a wooden spoon (you'll need one - at the end, it'll feel like you're whisking peanut butter. Stir in the vanilla and cashews.

4. Pour the batter into the greased pan, and bake until the top is golden, and a cake tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, and cut into squares to serve.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

sweet morning

I missed my calling as a B&B owner. I kind of really loved spending the stillness of the morning puttering about the kitchen putting together the sweets for yet another still-sleeping house guest.

Before I make myself out to be some super-human who wakes up early enough on a Saturday morning to prepare three separate baked goods, I have to say I only made the Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits today. The Cream Cheese Pound Cake (I just typed pounds - extra of which are on my hips now) and Blueberry Muffins I made over the course of the week for Sunday night dessert (strawberry shortcake), and breakfast for our first house guest, respectively. This was just the best way to present everything to you because I wasn't happy with how photos of the last two turned out.

So, let's just start clockwise from the top, shall we?

The cream cheese pound cake is to-die-for. Slightly reminiscent of a Sara Lee All-Butter Pound Cake, but without the ingredients you can't pronounce without stopping on every syllable, and enhanced by a couple of vanilla beans that the BFF brought back from Tahiti. Just stunning topped with whipped cream and macerated berries, but also delicious plain for breakfast or tea time.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
slightly adapted from Orangette
makes 2 8x5-inch loafs

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder

2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 c. sugar
6 large eggs
seeds from 2 vanilla beans

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8x5-inch loaf pans and line with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and cream cheese, and beat on medium speed until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar, and continue to beat for about 2 minutes more, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla seeds. Reduce the mixture to low, and add the baking powder. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, beating only until the flour is absorbed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the cake is golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack, and cool completely before loosening the sides with a thin knife, and removing the cake from the pan.

The blueberry muffins were probably my least favorite of the three, but that's not to say they were too shabby. When I made them Wednesday morning, I was a bit flustered because I had not read the recipe carefully enough the night before to release that I was going to have to whip the egg whites and egg yolks separately. I mean, it's one thing to wake up early to bake on a work day, but to clean that many bowls? Honestly.

Luckily, the combination of the cake flour as well as the whipped whites folded in separately gave the muffins just the best crumb. It loses a little of that texture as it cools and sits for a few days, so definitely save this for an occasion when the entire dozen will be polished off in one sitting as soon as they get out of the oven.

Blueberry Muffins
slightly adapted from Christine Moore's Little Flower: Recipes from the Cafe
makes 12 muffins

3/4 c. sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. cake flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with 1/2 c. of sugar until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Set aside.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat together the butter and remaining 1/4 c. sugar until pale. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, and mix thoroughly to combine.

4. In yet another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add one-third of the flour mixture into the butter-yolk mixture, then half the milk. Stir to combine. Repeat until the flour and milk are gone. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites until no white streaks remain.

5. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Top with the blueberries (which will sink during baking). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

And finally, today's baking adventure. Dorie writes in her headnotes that when she was developing the recipe, she marked this one with "SO GOOD," and I have to agree. Like the muffins, these are best straight from the oven, cooled only enough so you don't hurt yourself. Amazing plain (as I inhaled one for testing purposes), but I'm sure it would knock you right off your feet with a slather of salted butter. And if you had a couple extra of those aforementioned vanilla beans to whip in with your butter, you might just be absolutely destroyed by these biscuits.

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
makes 16 biscuits

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cake flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
5 T. cold salted butter, diced
1/2 c. cold sour cream
1/4 c. cold milk
1/3 c. finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add the brown sugar and stir, making sure there are no lumps. Add the butter, and using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.

3. Stir the milk and sour cream together in a small bowl, and pour over the dry ingredients. Quickly mix everything together with your hands until all the liquid has been incorporated. Add the pecans, and mix again with your hands until the dough comes together.

4. Lightly dust a cutting board with flour, and turn out the dough. Pat the dough out with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch high. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can, and transfer them to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, and continue cutting biscuits, repeating until there is no more dough left.

5. Bake the biscuits until puffed and golden, about 14-18 minutes. Best served immediately.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

still moving this flavor

We have a house guest for the next few weeks, and I made an awful first impression on his first night here. I was planning on a lovely dinner, but then got sidetracked with work, got home super late, and he was forced to eat leftovers, while Matty and I dove into some Thai take-out.

This meal of pork chops and farro-bulgur stir-fry I could have done last night, though. It all comes together fairly quickly (cook the grains and stir-fry your favorite vegetables while the pork is marinating, and then when you've pan-fried the pork chops, dinner is ready), and has flavor for days. Don't skip the fish sauce - it sounds scary, and may be a little stinky while you're marinating, but the flavor it imparts in the end-product is not at all fishy, but rather deeply savory.

I wouldn't say there was a lot of cornmeal flavor in the crust, but it had a really nice texture that I think also kept the pork from drying out. And remember, it's okay if your pork is slightly pink. It's already dead. Don't kill it again.

Cornmeal-Crusted Pork Chops
slightly adapted from Viet World Kitchen
serves 4

4 pork chops, about 1 1/4 lbs. total
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 T. fish sauce
1 large egg
1/2 c. fine cornmeal
4 T. vegetable oil

1. Slice the pork chops in half - you'll end up getting what looks like pork fingers.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic and fish sauce. Add the pork, turning to coat. Set aside to marinate for 15-30 minutes, turning occasionally.

3. Beat the egg in a separate bowl. Pour the cornmeal onto a plate. Dip the pork fingers in the egg, then the cornmeal, shaking off the excess.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Pan-fry the chops for 3-4 minutes per side, until the pork reaches 165 degrees. Drain the chops on a paper towel-lined plate, and serve.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

socca to me

For all my posturing about being better about New Year's Resolutions, specifically Sunday Suppers, I have been a complete failure. I think we've done two dinner parties so far this year, and one of them was my Dad's birthday dinner. Failure.

Dinner #3 tonight, though, was so much fun that I'm newly-resolved to start them up again. Hopefully, they're not all goodbyes like tonight's dinner was, but if I'm still recovering from the calorie overload (and Duchess is still recovering from her new puppy playmate overload), it won't matter what the occasion is.

The main course was an Italian dish called Socca, which I've renamed Beef, Cabbage + Potato Gratin for two reasons. A) To me, socca is this, or farinata. B) I prefer "gratin" to "casserole" because "casserole" is entirely too plain-Jane for this delightful concoction.

My only word of warning is to line the bottom of your oven with some aluminum foil. The sheer volume of this food does not fit in a 9x13 pan, and overflow is bound to happen. I'd say it's worth scrubbing the oven, though, if you've forgotten - tender pieces of beef, sweet melting strands of cabbage, all hefted up by just a bit of potato. And because there's only a sprinkling of cheese on top of this pot roast meets lasagna dish (rather than in every layer like a regular lasagna), it's only decadent, and not overly heavy.

I'm taking suggestions for other vegetable fillings. Mushrooms are obvious. I want to stay away from carrots and onions so it doesn't venture too far into pot roast territory. Man, if only Matty liked parsnips...

Beef, Cabbage + Potato Gratin
adapted from The Amateur Gourmet
serves 8

12 large sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 c. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled
10 T. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 T. salt, divided
2 lbs. red potatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 lbs. boneless chuck roast
2 1/2-lb. head of Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
2 c. white wine
10 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Use a mortar and pestle to blend the sage, rosemary, garlic and 1/2 t. salt into a paste. Slowly whisk in 1/4 c. olive oil. Set aside.

3. Put the potato slices in a large bowl, and mix in 1 t. salt, 2. olive oil and 1 T. of the herb paste. Toss well to coat.

4. Slice the beef into 3/4-inch cubes, and toss well with 1 t. salt, 2 T. olive oil and 2 T. of the herb paste.

5. Brush a 9x13-inch baking pan with 2 T. olive oil. Arrange half of the potato slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, spread half of the cabbage over the potatoes, and season with 1 t. salt. Add all of the beef over the cabbage. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cabbage, seasoning with another teaspoon of salt. Stir the remaining herb paste into the white wine, and pour the wine all over the top of the dish.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are easily pierced with a knife.

7. Remove the foil, and sprinkle the shredded Fontina over the top. Bake another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese has melted, bubbled and browned into a crusty topping. Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.

And the perfect palate-cleanser to serve with the gratin to basically clear the way for dessert is this Kale Salad with Roasted Cauliflower. The original recipe calls for roasted parsnips as well, but we've already discussed how half of the family isn't into parsnips. It was for the best, though - the whole meal would have been too starchy between those and the potatoes in the gratin. As it was, the lemon vinaigrette gave the perfect amount of brightness, and a last-minute inclusion of capers gave a fun briny pop to the salad.

Oh, and did I mention the kale is from our garden? Not so humble brag. So stoked on it. Kale forever!

Kale Salad with Roasted Cauliflower
adapted from Tasting Table
serves 4

1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 T. lemon juice
1 bunch lacinato kale, cut into ribbons
2 T. capers, drained

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the cauliflower with 2 T. olive oil, lemon zest, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste, and turn onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower begins to brown around the edges, tossing once.

3. In a large bowl, massage 1 T. olive oil into the kale ribbons. Add the cauliflower, lemon juice and capers, and toss to thoroughly coat. Adjust seasonings as necessary, and serve.

Friday, May 17, 2013

song of the shrimp

When I was a kid, fried shrimp was served at every special occasion. Nothing fancy, just the frozen stuff from Costco, but it was tasty and made for a good presentation.

This isn't as cute as most fried shrimp manages to look, but it was still as satisfying. Dare I say, even more satisfying because you don't feel like all you're eating is breading. I used my favorite fried chicken method, and as it was with the chicken, the shrimp came out perfectly cooked.

The glass noodle stir-fry is a simple one, made with 4 packets of noodles that I've had sitting in the pantry for ages, and vegetables on their last legs in the crisper. I would have liked for this to have been a little more green, but both the snap peas and edamame were past their prime.

Crispy Shrimp + Glass Noodle Stir-Fry
inspired by Serious Eats
Serves 4

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T. mirin
1 T. soy sauce
2-inch piece of ginger, minced
1/2 c. chopped green onions, white and light green parts only
8 oz. glass noodles
1/2 c. potato starch
vegetable oil, for frying
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 c. shredded red cabbage
1 c. bean sprouts
1 chile in adobo sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium bowl, toss together the shrimp, mirin, soy sauce, ginger and green onions. Marinate for 15 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the glass noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. In a large, deep skillet, bring about an inch of vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Adjust the heat to maintain that temperature. Brush as much of the ginger and green onions off of the shrimp as possible, reserving the marinade. Toss the shrimp with the potato starch. Add the shrimp to the hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain the shrimp on paper towels, and set aside.

4. Pour off all about 2 T. of oil. Add the mushrooms, and cook until golden brown. Add the cabbage, and cook until wilted. Add the bean sprouts and chile and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved noodles and marinade, and cook until warmed through.

5. Divide the noodles among 4 serving plates, and top with the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

i'm a pepper

I'm not sure there's much left to say with a name like this: Stuffed. Poblano. Peppers. Cashew. Chipotle. Sauce. I've not always been a fan of peppers, but I've come around, and maybe if all peppers were like this, I would have always had a love affair.

I used quinoa instead of rice because we just had rice, and I was short on time - the quinoa cooked much faster than the brown rice I had in the pantry. As the comments on the original recipe state, you easily have enough to stuff twice as many peppers, so if you're serving a crowd, knock yourself out. If you're not, you can reheat the stuffing the next day, and as I always like to do with leftovers, put an egg on it for a divine breakfast.

My only complaint with this recipe is that my cashew-chipotle sauce was more like cashew butter than it was sauce. And I'm not exactly sure if I should have added more chicken broth to thin it out, or more of some sort of oil in order to get it to emulsify into a sauce. It was still good, but it was a bit dry, and not as luscious-looking as the Serious Eats photo. However, I do now have a party trick for grown-up PB&J.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Cashew-Chipotle Sauce
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes 6 stuffed peppers

For the peppers:
6 medium poblano peppers
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 c. quinoa
1/3 c. golden raisins
1/3 c. capers, drained
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

For the cashew-chipotle sauce:
4 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. cashews
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 whole chipotles packed in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 t. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Char the poblanos directly over the flame of a gas burner, on a grill, or under a broiler. Transfer the hot, charred poblanos to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

2. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and bell peppers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in raisins and capers. Add 3 c. chicken broth, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is totally absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork, and stir in cilantro.

3. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add cashews and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and chipotle peppers, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30  seconds. Add 1/2 c. chicken broth, vinegar and sugar, and bring to a simmer. Transfer to a blender, and blend on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Uncover the poblano peppers and carefully peel. Slit each pepper lengthwise and remove the seeds. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish. Stuff each pepper with quinoa, and close until the shape resembles a pepper. Place in the sauce, seam-side-up. Repeat until all 6 peppers are stuffed and placed.

6. Cover the peppers with the remaining sauce and grated cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

strawberry jello

I'm a little afraid to admit how easy this Strawberry Jello was to make and bring to my parents' house tonight for Mother's Day dinner. I mean, Mom had already insisted on making her own dinner even though I tried to argue no fewer than 5 times within the space of 60 seconds that the entire point of Mother's Day is for her to do absolutely nothing, and even if she was trying to spare me the work, the least Matty and I could do was take her out to dinner.

Alas, I argued to no avail. I figured I'd show up with a dessert anyway, and this beauty popped up just in time.

I tried to be creative with it - you know how strawberries dipped into sour cream and then brown sugar is just about the best thing you can do all summer? I tried to incorporate brown sugar into the puree, and used sour cream instead of whipped cream in the second layer. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the strawberries were just so good and fresh, that neither flavor came through - all you could taste was strawberry for days.

By the way, you don't see the second cream layer here because I didn't wait long enough for the first layer to set before pouring it on. However, it did make a very pretty pink almost heart shape within the ring when we sliced in. Considering it'll be for looks only, I think I'd sub in Greek yogurt next time just to get the pretty pink color without the calories/fat of whipped cream. However, I think coconut milk might be able to cut through, so I'll definitely be giving that a try later this summer.

Strawberry Jello
slightly adapted from Zoe Bakes

1 1/2 lb. fresh strawberries
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 packets unflavored Knox gelatin
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. sour cream

1. In a saucepan, heat the strawberries and sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Puree the fruit with an immersion blender.

3. In a small bowl, pour the 2 packets of gelatin over 2 T. of water, making sure no dry powder remains. Let the gelatin sit until it blooms and absorbs all the water.

4. Heat the puree to a simmer, turn off the heat, and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is melted and evenly distributed in the puree.

5. Fill a 4-cup mold with 3/4-ths of the puree. Set the mold in the refrigerator until a skin is formed on the top, about 30 minutes.

6. Whisk the sour cream into the remaining puree. Add the sour cream mixture to the skinned-over mold. Set in the refrigerator for 3 hours or until very well set.

7. To unmold the jello, fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip the mold into the hot water for about 15 to 30 seconds. If necessary, use a thin-bladed knife to separate the edge of the mold from the jello. Invert onto a platter, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

flirtin' with disaster

Matty's day-before-birthday dinner was an absolute disaster. 

Well, I don't suppose you can call that salad disaster if you had intended to only make a gorgeous salad with seared scallops on top for dinner. But if you were intending to make Ming Tsai's Crispy Sushi Rice-Encrusted Scallops, and you ended up with scallops looking like the above, you might just quit cooking. Go ahead - click on the link and look at that picture. I'll wait.


So you make sushi rice. Check. Then you wrap the rice around raw scallops. Sticky, but check. Then, you deep-fry the sushi rice balls.

Hm. Well. I'm not scared of deep-frying. I think after these chicken nuggets, and these gluten-free donuts, I can confidently say I'm okay with deep-frying. However, I knew these were going to be disaster the moment I plunged them into the oil.

What's there to keep the rice from staying on the scallops (even though they stuck to my hands like their existence depended on it) when thrown into a vat of hot oil. Pardon my French, but jack shit. The oil basically blew the rice crust off immediately, and I was left with bits of rice crispies on the bottom of the pan, but by some grace of a higher power, the scallops managed to survive and stay perfectly cooked.

So an hour later (rice-cooking time, rice-balling time, disastrous frying time, crying into hot oil time - well, not really, but I figure I continue being dramatic), I had a delicious salad that I would normally be able to make in 15 minutes. My plans to take Matty out to organ music night at our local rollerskating rink went completely out the window, and I think we just ended up watching some basketball we don't care about. (Although, is there still room on the Steph Curry bandwagon? Adore.)

The salad was just cupfuls of our favorite veggies - Trader Joe's Power to the Green mix, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, orange bell pepper, straw mushrooms, baby corn and bean sprouts - and I made Matty's favorite salad dressing, the ubiquitous Japanese restaurant staple, carrot-ginger dressing. It's so easy, and so tasty. You'll have leftovers, which you can use as a dip for just about anything.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 cup

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T. fresh ginger, sliced
2 T. white miso
2 T. mirin
2 T. sesame oil
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the carrot, shallot and ginger until very finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, then add the miso, mirin and sesame oil. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil and water.

Luckily, I left the cooking to the professionals at Perch for his actual birthday today, and even though they regaled us with a white chocolate bread pudding with a bourbon. caramel. glaze, I had baked a lemon cheesecake early this morning, and managed to keep it a secret from him all day (thank you, second fridge), so we dug in when we got home. Just his grandma's perfect cheesecake recipe with a bit more lemon juice and zest. All's well that ends well.

Monday, May 6, 2013

so so fresh

I'm home! After four straight days of going over my calorie allotment (they can still eat foie gras there!), and after four straight days of leaving Matty to fend for himself (orange chicken, anyone?), we were both in need of major detoxing.

We were supposed to start Saturday with something nice and light, but juleps at a Kentucky Derby party with two of our greatest friends led to a meat-heavy dinner at their friend's Argentinean restaurant, so Saturday was shot.

An impromptu Cinco de Mayo barbecue (Trader Joe's carne asada and egg tacos make the greatest brunch of all time) also wrecked Sunday's calorie count, although we started out on the right path at dinner - all that brunch feasting left us only hungry enough for salad when dinner time rolled around).

And here we are at Monday, I've made myself a new rule to not eat carbs before dinner, and we're keeping things in check with the greenest green curry I've ever had in my life. I love it so much - nothing terribly crazy or fatty, just a bit of creamy coconut milk and chicken thighs - even if they're not quite as sinless as chicken breasts, life's really too short to debate tasty chicken vs. boring chicken.

The original recipe called for 3 c. of sugar snap peas, and while I love sugar snap peas much as the next fanatic, that would be extremely overwhelming. 2 c., which I've noted below, is just enough. Add on the watercress-cilantro-bean sprout salad, and you have the freshest, yet still comforting-enough-for-a-rainy-night curry ever.

One note - I would up the curry paste and fish sauce if you're going to serve this over rice. Alone, 1 1/2 T. of curry paste and 1/2 T. fish sauce should do it, but I leave it up to you in the instructions below.

Coconut Green Curry with Chicken + Snap Peas
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4-6

1 1/2 T. coconut oil
1 lb. oyster mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 - 2 T. green curry paste
1 c. chicken stock
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
12 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 T. fish sauce, divided
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/4 t. sugar
1 c. bean sprouts
1/2 c. watercress
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 c. cooked rice

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the mushrooms, and cook until most of their liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the curry paste, and cook, stirring until fragrant, another 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the chicken thighs, and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the chicken has cooked through, about 15 minutes, turning over halfway.

2. Remove the chicken from the pan, dice into bite-sized pieces, and return to the pan. Add the snap peas, and continue cooking until the snap peas are just cooked through, but still crunchy, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with fish sauce.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 T. of fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Add the bean sprouts, watercress, cilantro and green onions, and toss to coat.

4. Scoop out 1/2 c. of rice into each of 4 bowls. Ladle over 1 c. of curry, and divide the salad among the bowls. Serve immediately.