Sunday, December 30, 2007

Royal Foodie Joust - January 2008



Okay, since my aforementioned taste of culinary victory at (the now-defunct) Paper Chef has fanned my competitive flames, I'm giving it a go in the Royal Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queen's joint. My best work has always been under pressure, which is a good thing since I only found out about this yesterday and only have until Tuesday to get my shit together and make some magic happen.

This month's theme ingredients are pomegranate, pistachio and mint. Here's where it gets eerie: I have just purchased a half a lamb from my hobby-farmer boss who just took his wee little bebbehs to slaughter last week. The three ingredients lend themselves so beautifully to other Moroccan flavors that I couldn't have picked better partners for lamb if I tried. Imagine my glee!

Although I've drooled over many a tagine in my time (Ikea has great cheap ones), I've never been able to justify buying one because I only make this kind of food once or twice a year and have limited shelf space in my kitchen. I usually end up preparing my lamb by giving it a good massage of my dry rub - toasted cumin seed, coriander seed, cinnamon stick and an allspice berry or two, all whizzed up in my spice grinder and mixed with a bit of fresh-ground pepper and good, smoky paprika, and then grilling it in my cast-iron grill pan for a nice maillard and finishing to a rosy medium-rare in the oven. Sometimes I like to serve it this way with home-made lavender or quince jelly, depending on the season. Since I've never been a proponent of fixing what ain't broke, I'm gonna just stick to what I know this time.

Caveats: Unfortunately, my 18lbs of bleating goodness is still at the butcher, but time's a wastin'! I ended up having to buy some lamb from the store to save time. Also, I have been unable to locate pomegranate molasses ANYWHERE (except the intarwebs) so I made my own interpretation by simmering pomegranate juice into a viscous reduction. ALSO, I didn't want to buy confit lemons when I already had a bag of fresh ones, so I simply roasted fresh lemons with sea salt and olive oil until browned and slumpy. Now that I've got that off my chest...

And so I present to you, my inaugural entry in the Royal Foodie Joust. Game on!


Pistachio-Crusted Lamb with Mint Pistou and Pomegranate Reduction
A dry rub of Moroccan spices gives smokiness to the pistachio crust, while the mint and pomegranate enhance the flavors with cool and tart. Serves 4 generously.

2.5 lbs. lamb leg steak (remove from fridge an hour before starting)
3/4 c shelled pistachios, crushed or chopped
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 2" cinnamon stick
2 allspice berries
1/4 tsp black peppercorn
1/2 dried pasilla chile, stem and seeds removed
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked if you can get it)
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Prepare the spice rub by toasting all of the spices except the paprika in a small pan over medium heat until aromatic. Grind spices to a fine powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Add paprika and salt and stir together.

Rinse and pat dry the steaks and rub a generous amount of spice mix onto each side. You should be able to massage about a tablespoon onto each side, depending on the size of your steaks. Set aside for a minute to let the flavors soak in. Drizzle steaks with a little olive oil and then dip them into the pistachios, packing the nuts on a bit to help them stick.

Get a grill pan (or your grill) rippin' hot and gently lay the steaks on. I like to go for the criss-cross hatch grill marks but it doesn't really do any good with the pistachios on there, so you may as well just take it easy this time. I really don't know how long I cook them on each side - I check for some good Maillard on the bottom before I flip them, and then I pop the whole pan in a 375
oF oven for 3 minutes to finish the steaks to medium-rare. When cooked to your preference (PLEASE don't ever cook lamb past medium, just please don't) set on a plate to rest while everything else is getting ready. When rested, slice lamb into 1/4" thick slices.


Mint Pistou
Scott's friend Chris calls this sauce "minty awesomeness". Makes about 1/2 c of pistou. This pistou is also great with fava beans for a simple springtime risotto.

1 c mint leaves (packed down)
1/4 c olive oil (extra virgin)
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted lightly
pinch kosher salt

Process all ingredients to a thin paste.

Pomegranate Reduction
I couldn't find any pomegranate molasses so I had to think on my feet. Makes about 1/4 c of syrup.

1 16oz bottle pomegranate juice (
100%)

Simmer juice over low heat for ~20 minutes until reduced by 2/3 or until a syrup is formed. If it gets too thick it can be thinned with a little hot water and stirred.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Lemons, Eggplant and Red Bell Peppers
Roasted lemons provide a mellow acid balance to the roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers, and good olives are always a welcome touch. If you had a little forethought, you were roasting the lemons, eggplants and peppers while you were getting everything ready for the steaks. Serves 4 with leftovers.

1 3/4 c Israeli couscous
2 c hot chicken stock
2 Indian eggplants (or half an Italian one), halved lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, sliced crosswise
3 small lemons, quartered lengthwise
1 clove garlic, minced
10 saffron threads
1/2 c chopped cilantro
~10 cured olives
pinch of kosher salt and coupla cracks of pepper

Drizzle eggplant, peppers and lemons with olive oil and toss with a pinch of salt. Arrange in a baking dish with the eggplants cut-side down and lemons cut sides up. Roast for 30 minutes in a 375-degree oven. When slightly browned, cool and chop eggplant and peppers into bite-sized pieces.

In a large ceramic bowl combine couscous, eggplant, peppers, lemons (reserve 4 wedges for presentation), garlic, saffron and olives. Add chicken stock and stir. Cover bowl with a plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave another 2 minutes. Add cilantro and S&P to taste.

Plate by piling couscous on a large platter and
arranging lamb slices over the top. Add lemons and more olives to the sides of the platter for some prettiness. Drizzle mint pistou and pomegranate reduction over the lamb (there will some leftover to pass around the table).

We drank this with a Willamette Valley pinot noir and it was really nice.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

I am Welcomed to Foodie Blogroll!

So, you may have noticed that I've been trying very hard to establish myself as a tried-and-true food blogger. Winning Paper Chef 25 back in September was my first pat on the back, and getting a taste of the good stuff makes me hungry for more.

I have been added to the Foodie Blogroll (well, I nominated myself and Jenn, The Leftover Queen basically said "Sure, whatevs"). Please be sure and clicky da linky on my sidebar and visit the other great food blogs that draw my inspirado (and let's be honest: my player-hatred).

I've eliminated tags to non-food posts, but my old blog is still here. I have added tags to make it easier to track down the cuisine, and will hopefully add a search function for recipes in the future. In the meanwhile, I WILL get some better lighting for my kitchen so I don't have to fake call in sick from work to have some daylight to work with.

Here's to a gastronomically-inspired 2008! Kampai!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nabe


Nabe is standard Japanese one-pot meal, traditionally served in winter time. You can add anything you like, but I've used more typical Japanese ingredients. This is based on my memory of the nabe Scott and I ate in Tokyo.

Nabe (Japanese winter stew)

Makes 3.5 quarts (for 6 2-cup servings)

2 c fish stock
2 c chicken stock
2 c water
1/2 c sake or cooking rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp shiro miso
1 6" piece kombu seaweed, rinsed in cold water

8 fried fish cake balls (80g)
6 shrimp balls (120g)
1 baked tofu cake (3 oz), sliced thinly
1 skinless boneless chicken breast (6 oz), sliced thinly
1 king oyster mushroom (or 5 oz of other mushroom), sliced
1 baby bok choy
1/2 small onion, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced


Prepare broth by stirring together the liquid ingredients, the miso and the kombu for five minutes over medium heat. Add all of the other ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until the onions and mushrooms are al dente.

Serve with cooked udon (3 oz. cooked udon is 200 calories - I use 1.5 oz. in this soup per person) or other cooked noodle. You can heat the noodles right in the soup if you want.

174 cals, 4g fat, 17g protein, 2g fiber

Monday, December 17, 2007

Banh Hoi Bo La Lop



Tonight I made some awesome (though somewhat unbefitting a cold, wet December evening) banh hoi bo lan lop (Vietnamese grilled beef lettuce wraps) for dinner. These fit nicely into my diet menu, with only 280 calories for 5 rolls' worth of meat, lettuce, fresh cilantro, basil and cucumber, all dipped in that unctuous nước chấm that I love so much. I based the recipe on my interpretation of Tanh Dinh's salad rolls (where Scott and I ate a coupla weeks ago). You can wrap these in rice papers for a higher level of authenticity, but I don't think it's totally necessary. Served with rice noodles (in the wrap or on the side), it's a complete meal.

Banh Hoi Bo La Lop (serves 2)

8 oz beef eye of round, thinly sliced
2 tsp rice wine (sake works)
2 tsp fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tbsp chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 tsp. sesame oil (I used black sesame oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 green onion, thinly sliced
pinch S&P
10 lettuce leaves (I like butter or bibb the best, but romaine or iceberg are fine)
1 cup
do chua* (pickled shredded carrot and daikon)
1/2 c thinly sliced cucumber
few sprigs basil
few sprigs cilantro
I guess some fresh lime if you like
1 cup
nước chấm for dipping (recipe follows)

*(Do chua can be found in a SE Asian grocery that has a deli. Otherwise, you can either use un-pickled shredded carrot and daikon, or pickle your own in rice vinegar, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. It prolly takes a coupla days in the fridge. This will also go on the banh mi I plan to make later this week.)

Mix rice wine, fish (or soy) sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, shallot, green onion and S&P in a bowl and marinate the beef for at least 20 minutes.

(I added a sprinkle of black sesame seed for flair.)

Whilst you're marinading the beef, wash the lettuce leaves and make nước chấm.

Nước chấm (pronounced "nook chom")

1/2 c fish sauce
juice from half a lime or 2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp grated carrot
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili paste
2 tbsp water

Stir until sugar is dissolved. You can add chopped peanut if you want, but that shit's got a lot of calories, and beef's got plenty of protein.

After the beef is nice and marinate-y, throw it onto a hot grill pan and cook for like 30 seconds on each side. This cut gets tough if overcooked, so go ahead and live on the edge: eat it medium-rare.

To serve, arrange everything on a platter and eat by placing beef, cukes, herbs and do chua into lettuce leaf and roll the it up into a little salad roll. Dip in nước chấm. Curl toes.

Disclaimer: I AM A WHITE GIRL. Please, if something is unauthentic, lemme know! I want to learn from you. I love Asian people! Let's be BFFs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So, I'm on a diet

Yeah, that's right. I'm watching the weight again.

Anyways, tonight I made a yummy diet-esque dinner, and since I've decided I'm not ashamed to admit I'm counting calories, I took a photo of the buffalo taco salad I made for dinner. And guess what, bitches? I'm giving you the (admittedly simplistic) recipe.


Insalate del Cibolero (I totally made this up. It means something like "buffalo hunter's salad", I think. But doesn't it sound Important and Amazing now?)

(Serves 2 quite comfortably, thankyouverymuch)

8 oz. ground buffalo
1/4 c diced onion
1/4 c diced each anaheim, poblano and sweet pepper (such as mini bell) (3/4 c total)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin (fresh-ground if you can swing it)
1 tsp oregano (Mexican)
1 pinch cinnamon
S&P
4 tbsp salsa
1 corn tortilla, sliced into thin strips (1/4" thick)
cooking spray or olive oil
bag o' salad (I think that's like 4.5 cups per serving or something). I like butter lettuces.

Optional toppings: grated cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, lime wedge, avocado, etc. (I used low-fat and fat-free versions of the dairy, and tragically, didn't have any cilantro, lime or avocado on hand.)

Preheat oven to 350oF.

In a non-stick skillet (spritzed with cooking spray), brown buffalo over medium-high heat. There will not really be any fat to pour off, and besides, it's already included in the calorie count so live a little.

Add onions, chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and S&P and saute until veg becomes glossy and slightly softened. Turn down to low and add salsa. Gratz, you just made chili con carne.

Spread tortilla strips on a baking sheet and give them a quick spritz of cooking spray and a pinch of salt. Toast in oven for 10 minutes until crispy and tortilla chip-like.

Plate your lettuce (a bag makes two huge plates). Top with meat and veg mix, the tortilla strips, and the other accoutrement that I sure hope you're treating yourself to since you're having a fucking salad for dinner.

If you feel like it, you could just say "fuck a salad" and eat the meat/veg mix in a tortilla, in which case you'd be eating a taco.

Bueno appetito!

480 calories (with 1 oz 2% milk cheese and 2 tbsp fat-free sour cream, and that was splurging) 23 g fat
37 g protein
5 g fiber (more if you have avocado)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rebound ftw


Okay, I think I'm back a little. I'm back in the kitchen, anyway.

Last night I tried my hand at the sous-vide method of cooking (chinook salmon with roasted lemons, dijon mustard, honey and thyme). Hindsight always being 20/20, I would've bagged the portions individually before immersing them in the hot (errr... tepid 114oF) water bath for 30 minutes. The four portions were moist and delicious (claim the diners), but a little rare if I'm claiming to have cooked. I wasn't really going for sashimi, after all, and the low temp didn't totally allow for sufficient flavor permeation. But I will give it another go sometime, probably on a meat that begs for a real slow cooking, like pork.

Last weekend, in a fit of weather-induced ennui and general boredom, Scott and I found Fubonn and did a little wandering about. It was great! Everything I want (except shochu, alas) from an Asian megamart under one roof. We stopped by Meiann bakery for some tao sar bao (red bean paste bun), a green onion bun, a hot dog-cheese bun, a "Japanese-style" bacon bun, and a ham, cheese and corn bun. It all tasted like anpan but with savory fillings. I can't find the Vietnamese word for these types of breads, but it was very yummy, and for $1 a pop, I'll be back.

We had lunch at a joint called Tan Dinh for what we thought would be Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, but it ended up being a salad roll house. Oh, you get the noodles, and whatever meat you asked for. We both took the waiter's recommendation; I ended up with excellent herb-wrapped grilled Chinese sausages and pineapple, Scott with savory ground pork patties and grilled pork in a ginger broth. They bring out great platters of vermicelli, thinly sliced cucumber, and a mountain of fresh, cool lettuce, cilantro, mint and Thai basil; two bowls of nước chấm and a plate of rice paper salad roll wrappers. You dip the crisp, dry wrapper in the bowl of hot water to soften and then proceed to load them with noodles, meat and herbs, then roll and dip into the delicious nước chấm (fish sauce with lime juice, sugar, julienned carrot and chili). Even though I'd really been craving phở, this hit the spot.

Then we went over to the grocery store part of the joint (after checking out the Chinese medicine and tea store) and wandered around a bit more. You know I'm a whore for Korean ramen, but we actually successfully avoided the ramen aisle and hit the produce and meat department instead. Okay, we did pick up some udon, which I prepared Sunday night with thinly-sliced grilled pork (simple sesame, ginger, miso marinade) and king oyster mushrooms, Chinese chives (ku chai) and a little shaved cabbage and onion. It was very satisfying on a blustery day.

We also picked up some duck legs, which I finally got around to cooking tonight. I went for a more traditional (or common for me, anyways) approach this time. I simply scored the skin and popped them into a hot pan.


After browning on both sides, I added sage, thyme and crushed juniper berries to the hot fat and popped it in the oven to finish.

Served with cranberry-black pepper chutney, mashed sweet potatoes with a nutmeg-y sage-mushroom gravy (using the king oyster mushroom, which are the small white bits in the gravy pictured below) and wilted spinach, it was a nice respite from all this fucking weather we've been having.


Of course I had to coat the spinach in gravy, it's like 35 degrees out! The meat came out a bit tough, but was very flavorful. I guess duck can only really be perfect after a 2-hour bath in its own fat.

This weekend hopefully Sus and Shin will come over with their beautiful 3-week old son, Sage (who really makes me wanna get knocked up, and I mean in like a BIG way), and I can cook the last few pounds of albacore that're in the freezer. I want to surprise them with traditional Japanese winter food, but I don't know if I can use albacore to make oden or nabe. I guess I'll figure something out.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Epic Fail

Okay, so I never made an after-Thanksgiving post. Thanksgiving was a bit of a letdown, predictably, because the speech-impeded screams of toddlers had me so frazzled that I fucked up three of my side dishes and by the time I even got to sit down to eat they were already up from the dinner table, running around and demanding to be taken home. Sigh.

I forgot to parcook the sweet potatoes, so they never got soft and as a result, the custard couldn't set up in the center. My stuffing and haricots verts were prepared hours ahead of time (thought I was being clever), and the re-heat in the oven did them no favors. Sigh.

The turkey was really good, though, but I got only one photo, of the confit:


So now the exciting news: our basement flooded this morning from all the rain we've been getting (which hasn't actually been that much, all things considered). It didn't come in from the walls or anything, but from the fucking ground water. The water table rose so much that it percolated up through a crack in the concrete (near the furnace) and flowed in beneath the carpet across the floor. The carpet was all saturated this morning and after work we had to move all of our bajillion boxes of crap and tear up the carpet, then mop up the nasty sog and then turn the fans on. The only thing that smells worse than old, dried-up cat piss is moldy ground water-refreshed cat piss.

Then, THEN I found this horrifying creature which I have only been able to surmise resembles a huge termite:


WHAT THE FUCK. What in the holy fuck is this thing. Why does it think it belongs in my basement. Its abdomen rears up like a scorpion's tail when it's threatened.

And I have epic cramps. Fuck this noise. Fuck it, I say!