Monthly Archives: March 2011

And they say money can’t buy you happiness

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And they say money can’t buy you happiness

I didn’t do much cooking last week as I was on Spring Break and in New York(!) but I still managed to eat some good stuff.

If you’re a foodie and you have never been to New York City, I highly recommend it. There are endless options and the only problem is that it is unlikely you have the amount of money or the tummy-space to try everything. They have food in carts on the streets, in chain stores, in hotel lobbies, and even in train stations. Case in point: Grand Central Station.  There are over 35 places to buy food in Grand Central alone. One of the first things I saw was this bakery:

This is one-half or so of the bakery; I couldn’t get the entire establishment in one shot. Whoa.

The Boyfriend and I tried our best to cross  off as many eateries as possible off of our “Places to Eat in NY” list, starting with the Shake Shack!

I have heard that the Shake Shack is one of the quintessential places to go for a burger while you’re in NYC. Had I known that the Shack was outside, I probably would have skipped it, seeing as it was in the upper 30s that day; but boy am I glad that we went! The Boyfriend and I got our first taste of NY by sharing a burger, a NY style dog, fries, and a chocolate shake. Talk about burger nirvana; so good that I forgot to take a picture! The burger was everything a cheeseburger should be: melty, chewy, soft bun, secret sauce. The hot dog was different than any one I’d ever had: it had texture, you had to chew it! It clearly wasn’t liquefied meat piped into casing. And topped with sauerkraut and mustard, it was just the way I like it. After tasting the shake, I understand why they are called Shake Shack. The chocolate shake was creamy but not too much so, and tasted like decadent slightly dark chocolate. It was perfectly balanced so that it was sweet enough that you wanted the whole shake, rather than the average fast food milkshake: so sickly-sweet that you only want a little.

We didn’t get to eat here but I really wanted to. We were on our way to Katz’s when we ran across this place. They serve pomme frites (or as us commoners call them, french fries) with a ton of different mayo-based sauces. This place is definitely on the check-list for next time.

We made a stop at the infamous Katz’s Deli.

We got the classic pastrami on rye. It was pricey but definitely worth it. Layers and layers and layers (do you see how tall that sandwich is?) of pastrami with just a little bit of mustard. It may not sound like much but Katz’s does simple perfectly; no bells and whistles needed. The two pickles served alongside it were great too; the light green pickle in front tasted more like cucumber than pickle (and yes, I am aware that pickles are pickled cucs). The Boyfriend wasn’t a fan but I found it interesting and refreshing.

On our second (and unfortunately last) day in the city, we hit up China Town.

China Town is a culinary dream! So many markets with seafood, spices, fruit; I wish I could have done some food shopping here, but unfortunately we were on our way to Albany that evening.

I have never seen so many dried (theoretically) edibles! What does one do with dried sea cucumber?

Our last stop was at Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn. We had been advised by a friend of ours that this was where to go for the best pizza in Brooklyn. On the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn, The Boyfriend and I got pretty lost; as we were bumbling around sniping at each other, hungry and worried about the train we had to catch at Penn Station is just a couple of hours, it started to hail. Never has anyplace looked so good as when we saw Grimaldi’s and got to go inside out of the cold and hail.

Unfortunately, the first sign we saw said “No slices.” The second sign read “Cash only.” Thankfully we had enough time (and enough cash) to grab a whole pie. And I think I know why those 2 signs exist: no one should ever have just 1 slice of Grimaldi’s, it is just too good. And if we didn’t have to pay cash, I’m pretty sure we would have bought a second pizza to take with us. As it was, we had to be content with a large pizza (with pepperoni and mushrooms).

We were halfway through the pizza before I remembered that I needed to get a photo.

And then of course we had to get dessert.

Easily the best cannoli I have ever had (and the only one that The Boyfriend has ever had! When he saw it arrive, he asked me if it was some kind of deep-fried tortilla with ice-cream filling).

We spent much longer in Albany than we did in the city and we found a few good eateries there as well, but nothing that really compared to the food in NYC (but really, what can?). Well, I will make an exception for Cheesecake Machismo. Apparently it is one of Albany’s highest rated restaurants and it exclusively serves cheesecake. The Boyfriend and our 2 friends and I decided to split half of a Frankencake: a cheesecake made up of any 6 slices of their flavors-of-the-day.

We chose (from left to right): Purple Nurple (black raspberry Chambord cheesecake with double chocolate ganache on top); Chocolate Chip Fasciana; Sponkey Monkey; Coconut Smores; Chocolate Buzz (rich chocolate coffee cheesecake, double chocolate ganache, oreo crumbles, and a dark chocolate covered espresso bean on each slice); and Hazelnut Black Cherry.

It was glorious. I don’t know that I have ever had such delicious cheesecake. Going into it, I was most suspicious of the hazelnut-black cherry slice; it just sounded like all of the bad fake flavors from a candy store rolled into one. I was happily mistaken and it wound up being my favorite slice!

We tore our way through those 6 slices like we were cross-country skiers tearing down a mountain. We immediately felt over-full and sleepy and kind of ill; symptoms of a cheesecake hangover.

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Easy Asian Chicken and Why Sleep is Important

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I’ve been feeling extra-emotional lately, I think due mainly to how little sleep I have been getting (thanks to my statistics midterm and ongoing thesis work). Anyway, I watched last night’s Glee episode Original Song today where New Directions competes against The Warblers and Aural Intensity at regionals and I won’t lie, I got a little teary. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it but I will say that I love what they have done with Kurt’s character and the direction the show took when they added Darren Criss. (And whatever happened to Charice? I was really looking forward to her being in the show. Maybe she’ll turn up at Nationals.)

Anyway, after I got happy-teary and sentimental-teary during Glee, I decided to make something that was easy enough that my sleepy-self could make it without messing it up. It wound up being quite delicious: Asian-style baked chicken, rice, and a veggie stir-fry. I made two sauces and doused the half of the chicken in each sauce.

Honey Garlic Sauce

Adapted from Living Lou

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder (or dried minced onion)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced

Dark Sauce

Adapted from Greedy Gourmet

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tbsp white wine)
  • 1½ tbsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven 285°F.
  2. Lightly oil 2 small baking dishes. Season the drumsticks with salt and pepper and arrange in the dish in a single layer. Drizzle over a little olive oil, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
  3. Prepare the glaze(s) in the meantime. For each glaze, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl until evenly combined.
  4. Take the chicken out of the oven and increase the temperature to 350°F.
  5. Pour the glaze(s) over the drumsticks and wings in each baking dish.
  6. Return the chicken to the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, turning several times, until the chicken is tender and nicely glazed.
  7. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.

The Best Stir-fry Veggies

Adapted from Pink Bites

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of assorted vegetables, chopped into bite size pieces*
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, sliced and white and green parts separated
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice powder

*I used 2 green onions and 2 whole carrots, plus approximately a half-cup of cauliflower, a half-cup of mushrooms, a half-cup of white onion, and a cup of red pepper.

  1. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, soy sauce and water; set aside.
  2. Bring a wok or a large pan to medium high heat and add the two oils.
  3. Quickly cook the  green onions (white parts only) until soft, about a minute.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook it for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  5. Add all the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring it often. Cook vegetables 5 minutes.
  6. Add the sauce and continue cooking vegetables until they are done but still crunchy, about 5 more minutes. Add the green onions (green parts) on the last minute of cooking.
  7. Season vegetables with salt, pepper and a pinch of 5 spice powder.

The only thing that went a little weird was when I had to substitute something for honey. Apparently you can use 3/4 cup corn syrup with 1/2 cup sugar to replace 1 cup of honey. I tried to melt the sugar into the corn syrup so that it would be the consistency of honey, and that kind of worked. However, the faux-honey in the dark sauce burned in the oven and both sauces were a little thin, so I definitely recommend using honey rather than a substitute.

Other than that, this was a lovely meal; the veggies might have actually been my favorite part. In fact, I might go attack those leftovers now…

PS The reason sleep is important is because (I’m pretty sure that) it is positively correlated with your level of sanity. It is definitely negatively correlated with the number of tears shed in a week, at least for me, haha.

Poor Man’s Pho or Rich Man’s Ramen?

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Poor Man’s Pho or Rich Man’s Ramen?

Today I was craving some soup; but not the out-of-the-can or the comes-in-its-own-cup soup. I really wanted pho. I have a recipe for pho that I really want to try out but I have too much work and no time today so I decided to make a sort of pho/ramen hybrid. While it was not quite pho, it was easy and tasty and filled that soup-shaped-hole in my stomach quite nicely. And thanks to my mid-day meal, I have enough fuel for the hours and hours of studying that lies ahead, haha.

Fake Pho/DIY Ramen

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1/2 to 2/3 chicken bouillon cube*

A handful of fresh mushrooms

A few ounces cooked chicken

A portion of rice vermicelli

Half of a green onion, chopped

Optional: a handful of cilantro, chopped carrots, and/or sliced fresh jalapeno**

*Feel free to sub for one cup chicken or vegetable broth

**I didn’t add any of the above but if I had thought to/had any of those things, I would have

Directions:

Cook vermicelli according to the package directions (I boiled mine for about 4 minutes and then drained and rinsed the noodles in cold water).

Microwave 1 cup water until very hot (about 2 minutes); add bouillon cube and stir until dissolved (omit this step is using broth).

Add chicken and mushrooms to broth (and jalapeno, if using) and microwave an additional 1 minute.

Add noodles to broth. Top with shredded carrots and cilantro (if using) and green onion. Enjoy!

Lobster Mac and Comfort Cooking

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Lobster Mac and Comfort Cooking

So in the last post, I talked a bit about comfort food and why Korean food is comforting for me. Today is different; today I got comfort not from the food (although it was delicious!) but from the act of cooking it (and I even remembered to take pictures this time!).

Today I finally got to try two recipes that I have been begging The Boyfriend to let me do. The first was beets. The boyfriend has a high aversion to these maroon-ie root veggies. “You know what my mom says about beets?” he says whenever I bring up the possibility of making beets. “What?” I say, even though I know what’s coming next. “She says that she eats them whenever she is craving something that tastes like dirt.” Sigh. Some people (like The Boyfriend) think that tasting like dirt is the same as tasting earthy. I tried to explain that while beets are earthy, they don’t have to taste dirty, but until this week, he wasn’t having it. This week I put my foot down and said that I wanted to try making beets. I was able to placate him by pairing the beets with another recipe I have wanted to do: lobster mac-n-cheese. To quote the blogger that I borrowed the recipe from, “We are not talking about the abomination of folding lobster meat into mac and cheese here. We’re talking about using every part of the lobster to layer and accentuate its flavor in a spectacular lobster and macaroni gratin.” and s/he wasn’t kidding! It was definitely an effort (not a quick or easy meal) but it was a labor of love and it was just what I needed to boost myself up today.

The last few weeks, I have had so much work to do that it feels more like I am looking down the barrel of a gun that looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. And unfortunately, the workload is only increasing. So today when I got out of class feeling dejected and staring at the mountain of work piled in front of me, I did whatever any mature, responsible adult would do: I took a nap. Ok, so it wasn’t the most mature or the smartest decision to make, but I was feeling so low that I just couldn’t face it. When I woke up form my nap, I just wanted to do something that I could feel good about and would also give me that feeling of accomplishment. So I decided to tackle my most challenging recipe of the week. It took about 3 hours from start to finish (prep to doing the dinner dishes) but it was way worth it. Not only was it delicious but now I also feel better about the work in front of me; because really, if I can make lobster mac, I can handle 5 chapters of statistics homework, right? Right?

Lobster Mac adapted from the recipe at Zen Can Cook

serves 3-4

For the lobster:

3 lobster tails, cooked in a court-bouillon*

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1/2 large white onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup bourbon**

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste***

4 ounces whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 bouquet garni (fresh parsley, thyme, and tarragon, tied together or loose)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

For the gratin:

approx. 6 ounces elbow macaroni

lobster meat from 3 lobster tails (above), roughly chopped

Gruyere cheese, grated

*For my court-bouillon, I used water, lemon juice, salt, parsley, bay leaf, tarragon, and thyme, but feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.

**The original recipe called for Cognac but I didn’t have any so I used Maker’s Mark. Use whichever one is most convenient for you!

***It is super annoying to buy a whole can of something only to use 1 tbsp of it, so I froze the rest of the tomato paste in 1 tbsp increments in an ice cube tray. In the future if I need just 1 tbsp, I can pop an ice cube out and throw it in the pan.

Directions:

For the lobster broth and meat:

Make sure you have everything prepped, so chopped all of your veggies and boil your lobster tails.

After your lobster tails have been boiled in the court bouillon for approximately 5 minutes, remove from water and cool. Once cooled, separate meat from tail.

In a deep enough stockpot, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the lobster tails. Brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped carrots, celery, onion and garlic and keep cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes.Remove from pot and set aside.

Deglaze with the bourbon or Cognac and carefully set aflame with a match. When the flames die down, add the white wine and reduce. Add the tomato paste and the crushed whole peeled tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the bouquet garni and the heavy cream. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes at a very gentle simmer. Turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.

At this point, if you have a hand held blender you can remove and discard the tough lobster part and blend the mixture until roughly blended before straining it through a chinois or strainer. If you don’t have a hand held blender, strain the mixture making sure to push hard on the solids to extract all the juices. You should obtain a lobster ‘cream’ more or less the same consistency as a cheese sauce. Reduce if too thin to concentrate the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the gratin:

Cook the macaroni ‘al dente’ and add it to the lobster ‘cream’. Adjust seasoning and toss the chopped lobster meat with the macaroni and lobster ‘cream’.

Scoop the mixture into buttered ramekins or a casserole dish. Sprinkle the shredded Gruyere over the top in an even layer.

When ready to serve, broil for a few minutes until a nice crust has formed and bubbly on top.

Ok, so the beets aren’t as exciting but they are a nice complement to the mac-n-cheese because it is tart and sharp and crunchy where the mac is soft and gooey and rich. And beets are really good for you, where the mac is only good for the spirit.

10-minute Beets, adapted from the recipe at A Doctor’s Kitchen

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 beets, without greens, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive, plus more for drizzling, if desired
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  1. Shred the beets in a food processor fitted with a disc for medium shredding or fine julienne.*
  2. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots and garlic; cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the beets and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Cook, stirring and tossing, 3 to 5 minutes, until the beets have given up their water and are crisp-tender, or longer to desired doneness. Take pan off of heat and stir in 2 teaspoons of the vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve immediately.

*I don’t have a food processor that can shred beet so I just chopped them with my Pampered Chef Chopper and that worked out fine

So here is my first official post with pictures of the food that I actually made! And about those pictures… I’m sorry if the color/angle/clarity is not always good. I’m not terrific with a camera and I have a basic shoot and point. But hopefully it gets the idea across.

Until next time!

Beef Bulgogi and Why I Love Korean Food

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Beef Bulgogi and Why I Love Korean Food

Story time! One of my best friends for nearly the last decade (that makes me feel old!) is Korean-American. She lived down the street from me with her Korean mother and decidedly un-Korean stepfather. During high school, we rode the bus (and then later her hand-me-down car) to and from school together; more often than not, we’d get off at either her bus stop or mine together and hang out. If you’ve ever been a teenager you’ll know that a sacred ritual is the after school snack: it’s one of the only times of the day that what you eat isn’t designated by your parents or the school or even the fast food you could walk or drive to during lunch if you were lucky enough to be allowed to eat lunch off-campus. Well, we weren’t allowed to leave school grounds to get lunch which made the after school snack an even bigger deal. The days that my friend A and I went to my house, we subsisted off of pizza rolls, hot pockets, and other stereotypically “American” freezer food. But on the magical days that we went to A’s house after school, I was treated to food from a whole ‘nother continent! At A’s house, there was always a rice cooker full of perfect rice on the counter, always a gallon jar (or 2) of homemade kimchi in the refrigerator, and sometimes there would be leftover kimbap or egg rolls and I could die happy (and full). On these days at her house, A would either join me in my quest to eat as much kimchi as possible or she’d make herself a hot dog while I chowed down. These “snacks” and my friendship with A have made me into a lover of all things Korean (at least food-wise); it didn’t exactly hurt matters that for a good part of high school, A worked as a waitress for the premier (and only–but it was still awesome) Korean restaurant in town.

Until recently, I have never dared to replicate any food item that I could get better at a Korean restaurant. However, I will be moving out of the state next year and I know three things: that A and I will spend less time together than we have been even these past 4 years, that my favorite Korean restaurant might not be in my hometown the next time I visit, and that no matter what, Korean food always tastes like home to me. So with these thoughts in mind (and after a visit to a local Korean restaurant that I found deeply unsatisfying), I decided to tackle the quintessential Korean food: beef bulgogi.

Bulgogi is, simply put, a dish made of marinated beef, pork, or chicken that is cooked in a pan or over an open flame. It is traditionally served over rice with a host of sides (for example: kimchi, boiled bean sprouts, and occasionally, at my favorite Korean restaurant, coleslaw).

I check Foodgawker.com for a recipe and found one that looked suitably inexpensive and “right.” The original recipe is from the blog at Sweet Savory Life but I have posted here the modified recipe that I used. I hope you enjoy it, even if you didn’t grow up with a wonderful ambassador to Korean food like I did 🙂

*Sorry, this still isn’t the one I made; I found it on Google again. However, mine did look quite similar to this! Minus the carrots on top–I’m not that fancy.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 – 1.75 lbs. of thinly sliced steak (it’s recommended to use rib-eye but we used the sirloin tips that come pre-sliced. Tip: have the butcher slice it for you if it’s not pre-sliced!)
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 1/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp  sesame oil
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into medium moon shaped slivers
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced into small pieces
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds (toasted or not toasted; omit if you dislike them)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (adjust for how spicy you want it)
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. of ginger, finely minced

Directions:

  • Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl except beef and onions. When most of the sugar has dissolved, add beef and onion slices to the bowl and massage the marinade  with your hands into each slice of beef.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • To pan fry, heat a few tablespoons of oil until shimmering (I used olive oil but sesame or vegetable would probably work just as well). Place beef slices completely flat in a large skillet and cook stir-fry style until done (usually 3-5 minutes).
  • Enjoy over a bowl of long-grain or jasmine rice and with a side of kimchi! (a good store brand is King’s Kimchi)

Curried tuna salad and the art of building a sandwich

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Curried tuna salad and the art of building a sandwich

When I went shopping this week, I bought everything I needed to make tuna salad…or so I thought. In reality I forgot quite a few of my favorite add-ins (like celery, onions, and cilantro). Rather than make another trip to the store, I decided to just wing it with what I had and to throw in a few game-changers; after all, there’s no reason that tuna salad has to always taste the same, right?

Below I have posted the recipe for my on-the-fly curried tuna salad and what I think goes into making a kick-ass tuna sandwich. I didn’t manage to get any pictures (next time!*) but hopefully you can visualize the beauty of this dish. If not, I guess you’ll just have to make it!

*The picture posted in not a picture of the tuna salad I made. I forgot to take pictures, so this is just an “artsy” tuna salad sandwich that I found on Google image search. You have to trust me: the curried tuna salad is much more photogenic and way tastier than any old generic, “artsy” tuna salad. You won’t be disappointed.

Curried-tuna salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 12-oz cans chunk light tuna in water, drained (I used StarKist)
  • 3 tbsp. mayonnaise*
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • about 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • about 1 tsp. pickle juice (optional)
  • about 2 tsp. curry powder**
  • about 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • about 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or less, if you don’t want your tuna to kick!)
  • black pepper
  • salt

*I highly prefer the taste of mayo to Miracle Whip but you should use what you like. If you use mayonnaise, I recommend Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil.

**For my tuna salad, I used Indian curry powder, by Badia. But if you like the taste of Thai curry better, use that instead!

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to large bowl. Mix well. Adjust everything to taste (i.e. add more mayo if you like it saucier, add more lemon juice if you need more acid, more salt and pepper if it’s bland, etc. Just don’t go overboard with the garlic powder or curry powder–it might make it a little bit bitter!)

Curried Tuna Salad Sandwich

For me, a tuna salad sandwich is only as good as the veggies you top it with and the bread that it’s on. I start with a thick, hearty bread; this time I used Arnold 12-Grain. I popped 2 slices of that in the toaster and mixed up some Siracha mayo while I was waiting (3 parts mayo, 1 part Siracha hot sauce). I also gathered lettuce, shredded carrots and spicy sprouts (which aren’t actually spicy, in case you’re wondering), and sliced up some cucumber, tomato, avocado, and red pepper. By the time the toast is done, I’m ready to start layering: bread topped with Siracha mayo, then lettuce, tomato and cucumber with some salt and pepper on top. It is on that lascivious stack that I put my tuna salad; and you have to d this carefully, lovingly or else the tuna will knock all of the other veggies off of the sandwich (oh who am I kidding? It will do that anyway. But don’t give up!). I finished my sandwich by stacking the remaining veggies on top of the tuna and topping it with the other slice of bread (I like to double-team with the Siracha mayo so there’s definitely some of it on this slice). As soon as I can cut this baby in half, the sandwich is going to be on a quick run to my belly. I might have been a bit optimistic about being able to get all of that sandwich into my mouth, because a lot of veggies feel off onto the plate. Oops! But like a true foodie, I soldiered on. And it was fantastic. I enjoyed my oh-so-delicious sandwich with a handful of Cheetos Cheese Puffs (a girl has to have some vices!). Mmm-mmm. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch (and I hope you are too!).