Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pork medallions with golden beets and blue grits

I guess I'm finally tired enough of eating premenstrual cravings for dinner every night and can cook again, but I still don't feel like busting out a carefully-metered recipe at 10:00 on a work night. So I'll just describe and you can figure it out.

Pork tenderloin medallions, 1" thick, S&P. Sear in a pan, finish to medium in the oven, rest for a few minutes. (I don't believe in trichinosis, because this isn't the 1800s. I eat pork a little on the less-than-well-done side.) Deglaze pan with some budget pinot noir and some pomegranate molasses (leftover from January RFJ). You can add some golden raisins or a mince of dried apricots, if you like. This is a lovely thing to do.

Roasted golden beets: scrub the dirt off the skins, salt and toss in olive oil. Roast until tender. Toss with a drizzle of walnut oil, some toasted pumpkin seeds, a splash of white balsamic and a pinch of Maldon.

Blue grits: 50-50 coarse grind yellow corn meal and blue corn meal (I couldn't find coarse-grind blue cornmeal) . Heat some milk with a pinch of salt to a dull roar, drizzle in the corn meal (stirring) until porridge-like. Simmer on low for a few, then stir in a handful of frozen corn kernels and crumbled blue cheese (I used Danish). Spread this out on a silpat or some parchment, cover loosely with foil and bake until the bottom is crispy-cheesy (like 15 minutes). The crispy, browned crust on the bottom is manna from heaven and is, alone, worth this effort.

This is how I think all recipes should be written, anyway. If you spend as much time in your kitchen as I think you should, you would need only see a list of ingredients to make something incredible edible.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Huevos Rancheros

I needed to take a little vacay from the blogging for a few days, because when my hobbies start to feel like a second job, I usually abandon them altogether. I don't want that to happen! I don't want to resent my blog. Also, I didn't eat at home much over the weekend.

Anyhoo, I meant to share my huevos rancheros with y'all. I have to be honest, though: while the photos came out very pretty, I don't think it tasted great. Does that ever happen to you? I feel like an imposter even showing this to you. The beans could've used some seasoning, the potatoes needed another five minutes on the stove, and I should've fried (or at least toasted) the tortillas. Oh well. Pretend it tastes awesome.

Huevos Rancheros

1 large waxy potato, diced
1/2 c onion, diced
1/2 c red bell pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch chili flake
S&P to taste
4 corn tortillas
1 c cooked black beans
2 eggs
Accoutrement: sour cream, salsa and/or hot sauce, chopped cilantro

Fry the potatoes, onion, bell pepper and jalapeño in a little oil over medium-ish heat. Add the spices and a bit of water. Cover, and cook over low-ish heat until potatoes are tender. If you want, you can jack the heat back up, add some more oil and get a little crispy edge on the potato, but I always fuck this up when the potatoes (inevitably) stick.

While you're heating up the beans (btw, go ahead and give them a little salsa or at least some cumin, S&P), fry your eggs. I prefer "over medium", because while raw yolks are delicious, runny whites are fucking foul.

Heat up your tortillas by either toasting them until cripsy in the oven (give them a spritz of cooking oil and a pinch of salt if you do this) or fry them, if that's how you roll. I fucked this up by just heating them on top of the covered potatoes, which steamed them. This works great for flour tortillas, but corn tortillas taste stupid when given this treatment (unless you're making tacos).

Plate the tortillas, add a scoop of potatoes, then beans, a dollop of sour cream and salsa, the egg, then a sprinkle of chili flake and cilantro, and some S&P. Bueno appetito!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bärenjäger Toddy

Sometime when I'm at the liquor store I like to pick up something I've never had before. This usually ends in tragedy, but sometimes I strike gold. This is one of those times.

Have you ever seen this before? It's a honey liqueur, and it's delicious. It really tastes like cuddly pot of honey that was left out to turn to booze on a summer afternoon. It tastes like clover blossoms and French kisses with blond bees. The bottle has a handy belt strap on the back.

Since winter is almost over (godspeed, vernal equinox!), I figured I'd enjoy one last taste of winter and make a hot toddy. I know, it runs completely contrary to the imagery I put in your head in the preceding paragraph, but cut me a little slack. I love hot toddies. Anything that consists of bourbon, honey and lemon is alright by me.

Bärenjäger Toddy

1 glug Bärenjäger honey liqueur
1 glug good bourbon
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice, plus a wedge to garnish
2 oz. boiling water

Pour each of these things into your favorite mug. My favorite mug actually has Deery Lou on it, but it's in the dishwasher right now. I'll find out tomorrow if I'll ever drink it again.

In other news, since I have been hit with a couple more memes (seriously, people, stop the insanity), I decided I'm going to double-dip and select the same five victims for both. Judy smacked me with the E is for Excellent award (I was really hoping the E was for Epilepsy, but alas), for whom I am supposed to select five more recipients. And Núria blasted me with the monstrosity of Name a Million Earnest Things About Yourself, This Time With Feeling. Another five victims.

I don't want to play along, but I noticed that when I mock these things or protest, nice people stop reading my blog. The hell am I supposed to do? This isn't LiveJournal, for fuck's sake. Can't you people see that?

So I am making a compromise. I will answer the stupid questions and pick five more people. But this time, I implore you, I beseech you, DO NOT PICK ME FOR ANY MORE MEMES. For the love of god. If you don't listen, I will be forced to think of more synonyms for begging, and who wants that? No one, that's who.


What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was living in a shitty apartment, growing ever less enamored of my then stoner-artist boyfriend (who did not become the Hubz) and in my third year of forestry school. I think that's the year I started eating seafood after 8 or so years of vegetarianism. And looking forward to my thirties.

What were you doing 1 year ago?

Pretty much this, I just wasn't talking about it.

Five snacks you enjoy

Korean ramen with extra sesame oil and cayenne sprinkled on top
Cinnamon Chex with skim milk
Baby garlic dill pickles (or cornichons)
Toast with butter and marmalade
Imitation crab, chunk-style, straight from the package

5 Things you would do if you were a millionaire

1. Open a supper club. You know those places that have family-style communal tables, prix-fixe menu, dinner only (maybe brunch on Sundays). Simpatica (one of my favorite restaurants) is this style, and I love sitting with other patrons chatting about each course. This is the only kind of restaurant I can see myself cooking in.

2. Donate $100,000 to Planned Parenthood and $100,000 to the Nature Conservancy.

3. Live in Japan for a year or twelve. One week is not long enough.

4. Buy a huge old Victorian and remodel it to be completely green. Like Platinum LEED Rating green. I've always wanted to live in a really old house with three or four floors and little creepy stairways hidden in closets. I'd like to go completely solar for my electricity.

5. I'd build a conservatory with a swimming pool inside so I can swim in the same place as I grow citrus trees, vanilla orchids and heirloom tomatoes. And I want a pet heron to do my bidding. He can live in the conservatory when it's too cold outside.

5 bad habits

I rarely floss my teeth, I belch, I cuss, I blow off going to the gym more than I go, and I talk shit about people behind their backs.

5 things you like doing

Drinking, eating, cooking, writing, watching E! True Hollywood Stories

5 things I would never wear again

An army jacket, long johns as outerwear, Birkenstocks, tie-dye, patchouli

5 favorite toys

My Wii, my camera, my propane torch, my chef's knife, my USB turntable

I changed my mind. I don't want to pick any people to pass this on. I have a feeling I won't need to, since the people I would pick will get picked by others anyway. And besides, you can't get to know people by forcing them to answer forced, insipid questions like life is a Sign-In, Sign-Out book from 4th grade.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

White Trash Delicasies

Work's been kicking my ass the past few days. I worked ~16 hours today, which included a two hour-long (mediated) fight with a senior coworker, and can't fathom cooking. Yet I can fathom blogging?

Okay, I asked the hubz if he'd consider fixing something to eat. He said he had given it some thought, but couldn't come up with anything. That means "I'm not that hungry, so I can't possibly come up with any meal idea, not even for my starving and overworked wife."

So I ask him if he can boil some fucking blue box and heat up a can of chili. He supposes he can. I know it sounds like an abortion, but a bowl of mac n' chee with some Nalley's dumped on top is pretty damn good. And hey, I use the vegetarian Nalley's (yes, they actually make that), so I get some good fiber and protein without the "chili meat" that is, I'm pretty sure, only barely legally fit for human consumption.


Box of mac n' chee
Can of chili
Tater tots
Lawry's seasoned salt

Cook the box of mac n' chee according to box directions and/or personal taste. Heat up a can of chili and dump it over the top. Serve with tater tots that have been sprinkled with Lawry's (optional). Pairs well with a Maker's and Diet Coke.

Since I really am completely white trash on my insides, I put ketchup on my mac n' chee. Oh, don't look at me like that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miso fish is also a basic thing.

I've been making it for pert'neer a decade. It's fast, easy and requires nearly no attention. And Rachael Ray can shove it up her Photoshopped ass, 'cuz this takes less than 30 minutes, and I didn't even have to fake any cooking talent to make it. You do need some basic Japanese ingredients, but for $10 worth of pantry items, you'll be able to whip out fairly honest Japanese cooking.

Sakana-no nitsuke (miso fish)
You can use any kind of fish for this. I like a working-class tilapia or basa, but cod went on sale and it was just delicious. I like to serve this with Calrose rice and mixed greens to sop up the sauce. Serves 2.

3 tbsp shiro (white) miso
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp yuzu preserves or marmalade
2 tbsp sake (optional, but why don't you just get a bottle of sake and drink the rest)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin (1/2 tsp honey + 1/2 tsp water can be subbed)
2 or 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp grated ginger

A good, firm fish fillet such as mentioned above, cut into 2 servings
1 scallion, sliced eloquently

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in your favorite little sauce-whisking vessel. Taste it and make sure I didn't fuck up the recipe, because I wrote it from memory (however, I think I'm pretty damn close). I'm really assuming you know how to tell if something tastes "not right" and can tweak basic flavors such as sweet and salty. Also, you should just always taste while you cook anyway, unless you want to be a laughingstock, and who wants that.

Preheat the oven to 350oF (the magical temperature*). Heat up a pan and slip in some oil (not olive, just this once). Lay the fish in the pan (you can add some shiitake if you want), and pour the sauce over the top. Oh, how it will spatter and protest! Turn off the stove and toss this puppy into the oven. The fish will be done in the time it takes to cook the rice (15-20 minutes). When the fish feels firm to the tip of your ring finger, it's ready. The great thing about this dish is that the fish never really dries out because of the sauce. Go ahead and sprinkle the scallions over the top, for a little flair.

Serve with Calrose rice sprinkled with fumi furikake (rice seasoning) of your choice (I use a spicy nori fumi furikake - it's totally optional) and some nice mixed greens. Deftly spoon the sauce over the fish and greens, but leave the rice unmolested. You'll be glad to have moist little mouthfuls of Clean and White to chase the unctuous sauce.

*350oF is the magical temperature because it gives you the maximum walk-away-and-forget time without resorting to actual slow-roasting. Oh, that shit'll cook, it just won't burn the second you turn your back on it. Also, it' s my oven's default temp and sometimes, yes, I'm too lazy to push a "temp up" arrow three or four times.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Romanesco really freaks me out.

Okay, some of you know that I have a day job: I'm a field biologist working in natural resources consulting. I grew up watching a lot of David Attenborough programs. I have seen a lot of crazy shit in my life (truth really is stranger than fiction).

So of course, the first thing I think of when I see Romanesco is "oh man, that looks just like that fucked-up snail with the parasite that makes its antennae go all green and insane, dunnit?"

You're staring at me blankly right now, aren't you. Well look at this and tell me I'm not right.


Crazy, fucked-up snail with liver fluke parasite:

Amirite? Well the animated gif really does illustrate it perfectly, I think. I dunno. Romanesco just freaks me out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Heart Attack on a Plate

You ever wake up and feel like "fuck a bowl of oatmeal"? You ever want something so fattening, so boorish, so wrong that you're just like "Fuck it, I'll hafta run 5 miles to keep this off my ass but right now I'm going for it!" and then you let out a battle cry and race to the kitchen? Yeah, I thought so. Luckily, you're in good company.

For the young of artery, I present to you:

The Breakfast Burger
Yes, I am a serious as a fucking heart attack. (knock on wood)

Fry up a coupla strips of bacon. Then take a 1/4 lb of ground pork and smash it into a patty. Salt and pepper on both sides, and fry in the bacon fat. Throw some sliced onions and mushrooms in the pan with the pork and bacon fat. Meanwhile, fry an egg over easy. Toast a hamburger bun, and place the patty down, top with some sharp cheddar (Swiss would be great, too), then the bacon, then the mushrooms/onions, then the fried egg and give a crack of pepper and a dribble of hot sauce.

Look at the money shot! The drippy yolks are gravy. Serve with fried potatoes. Also, if you're eating breakfast after 12:00 noon, you can have a beer with this and it does not make you an alcoholic. I washed this beast down with an ice-cold Spaten.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Coho-corn chowder

...or, Happy Black History Month

I wanted to make a special Black History Month post, just to say "hey, Black People, thanks for helping make American food so fucking great! Cuz' if we didn't have soul food then I just don't know what." Have you noticed that, like jazz is to music, the only real completely "American" food we have is soul food? Black people are awesome.

So I wanted to conduct an interview of sorts with a fellow food blogger, like the foodie version of Ask a Black Dude. I looked around a bit and with a little hand-holding from Cynthia (who graciously bowed out of my invitation since she's a Guyanese Barbadan, and doesn’t actually celebrate BHM) I had the good fortune of making a new friend in Bloggyland - Courtney (aka Glamah16) of Coco Cooks. Courtney is hell of cosmopolitan - the lovechild of a Mississippian (but raised in Chicago) mother and Nigerian father - and she went to college in Paris! Perfect!

She was game, and so I pretended that I was sitting there with her like James Lipton instead of typing questions for email.

Heather: Hi, Courtney. Okay, sorry it took so long for me to get my shit together, but I finally have some interview questions. I want you to answer in your true voice, don't worry about how it types up. You may have noticed that I tend to say whatever the hell is on my mind, and type phonetically, so answer as honest as you wanna be. I will try not to use my "blaccent", but feel free to use yours, if you have one. :)

Courtney: Remember I grew up as the only black, or just a few in an all white environment. Let’s just say I was, and still am, mimicked. I have been called Carlton from Fresh Prince, or my new favorite (not) Oprah (in terms of speech). But that’s the beauty of being me and black. Not being pigeon-holed as to what society expects you to be like. I am what I am. Some people, either my own or others, don’t like it and that’s their issue.

H: Who taught you how to cook? (btw: my mom never let me help in the kitchen when I was a kid. She was always afraid I'd get kid germs and hair in everything or that I'd cut/burn/dismember myself if she let me do anything besides open a can or peel a potato. I didn't get to handle a real knife until 6th grade Home Ec.)

C: I was one of those precocious kids that was ahead of her time. My Mom encouraged me to cook. My parents were divorced and I remember her boyfriend at the time was speechless when he saw me grill my own lamb chops under the broiler for my dinner. I must have been like 11. My Mom let me start off experimenting with eggs. She was the most overprotective Mother you can imagine but that didn’t stop her from letting me cook. My favorite was lobster. Always had to have it. I was spoiled. I always liked grilled meats, and unusual things. On weekends when I visited my father I always plotted some concoction to cook for him that I got from a magazine. I never liked Nigerian food. Not that it wasn’t good, I just got sick of us having to eat it everyday. There was always a pot of "Soup" which was really a tomato based stew with meat, dried fish, or chicken served up with fufu. Not really exciting if it’s in your face everyday.

H: You mentioned to me once that your favorite food growing up was more influenced by your Southern mom. Is that still true, or have you begun to explore your father's Nigerian cuisine, too?

C: Oops, I answered this above. But now I can appreciate it more (Nigerian).When my father died and all these relatives were coming, I had to find a Nigerian restaurant to cater [the funeral]. I wish there were better and more Nigerian restaurants in Chicago. It turned out okay, however, and the cousins were pleased. Will I have a dinner party with it? Probably not. But it's simple comfort food.

H: When you talked about all of the foods that you loved growing up, you used the word "stereotypical" to describe them. This makes me think of that Dave Chappelle sketch where he says he's afraid to eat fried chicken in public because it means he's "living up to the stereotype". But shit, my mom's family is Southern too - I loved eating all that good shit growing up, and I'm white. I also grew up poor. Do you think that black people are reluctant to identify with those foods because they are "black" foods or because they're "poor folks'" foods?

C: That’s more of a class thing than a race thing. I find at least in my world. A lot of people who become enlightened or educated move away from these foods. The big thing I see is the rejection of pork. I love my pork. But for dietary, health, or religious [reasons] I see a lot moving away from it. I also see a lot of vegetarians out there. There’s this cool place called Soul Vegetarian in Chicago. I mean we as a race have higher incidents of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. So these changes are good on the whole. But once in awhile is good. We are a rich race which can draw on so many culinary influences (Latin, Caribbean, Creole, etc.) Fried chicken isn’t my first choice in favorites. I love it but prefer other things. I find it comical how my boyfriend embraces it. He has a colleague that’s envious that he eats Harold’s, as the colleagues don’t have the guts to visit one. Do I fry chicken myself? Rarely. This brings to mind a Jewish friend who "introduced" me to the best ribs on the South Side: Lems. This so-called Ivy League liberal was appalled I had never heard of this famous place and couldn’t find my way driving to it. Then he always wanted to go there and it got on my nerves. Like all black people eat BBQ ribs, chicken, and watermelon. Some of us do, and some other races too, but don’t assume it. Patronizing liberal people like that get on my nerves like those fake Gluten Free people bug you!

H: It find it ironic that a Jew recommended a rib joint named after a Hebrew name that means "belonging to God". Anyways, I can relate to what you said about continuing to eat foods that are sort of reminiscent of harder times (like neck bones, chitlins, etc.), because I still love a pot of just regular white beans cooked with a ham hock, or S.O.S. (that's "shit on a shingle", for those of you who didn't have military parents), etc. This attitude towards the "nasty bits" is a very French one and is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. How does that make you feel?

C: I never knew that honestly about the Lem’s part. Funny! I crack up about the “nasty bits”. Especially watching Top Chef and they have ‘Offal’ challenges. I was thinking about this pork belly rage. Kind of reminds me just some fat back or slab bacon. I worked in a restaurant once when the chef's amuse bouche was essentially some fat back sliced paper thin with some glaze or something. We have a cafeteria at work. I always chuckle because they actually serve neckbones some days. It’s funny to see the non-black visitors on those days and if they eat it or not. As for the black staff, half opt for a salad. There was this one white guy, a contractor that wasn’t ashamed to eat them and was sucking off the meat, much to the horror of his other white colleague. Must have been a Southern guy.

H: LOL, yeah pork is hell of trendy right now. So, you have a German boyfriend. Does he ever cook German foods, or request that you cook German food? (My dad's family is German and I identify most as a sausage-and-cheese-eating German girl.)

C: Yes. I learned some stuff from his mother. He loves his pork loin roasted on a bed of salt. I started making sausages with the KitchenAid he gave me. He loves his meat and starch. Ironically, he loves Asian too. Especially the noodle dishes. Once a year we visit all the extended relatives on my mother’s side for JULY 4TH. He loves the food. Maybe German and Soul Food have many similarities.

H: Does Black History Month even mean anything to you, or is it just some bullshit "holiday" that white people made up 'cuz they feel bad about slavery/MLK assassination/the past 200 years in general/etc.? Why do black people only get one month? What type of shit is that? (Editor's note: a quick wiki reveals that BHM was actually established by black Americans in 1976. My bad.)

C: Honestly, I never gave it much thought until I started working for the company I worked for. It’s an all-black company. It’s important for sure. Especially for the young or adults that may not have grown up knowing their history. I love history because there is always so much more to learn. And that shouldn’t be limited to just one month. It’s like only having Valentines Day to show your love. Ridiculous.

H: Word. As a black woman, Obama or Clinton in '08? I know that doesn't have anything to do with food, I'm just interested.

C: OBAMA!!! I love him. I can relate to him with the African father and mother who died of ovarian cancer (like mine). Plus he’s my neighbor. I used to attend the health club he goes to,and I can say he’s the most gracious, real person. Always pleasant. I remember when he was just a State Senator here in Chicago when I first moved. Like I said, always pleasant. I was one of the few blacks that never got on that Clinton bandwagon. That’s me. It seemed all their friends were going down as they brushed the dirt off and rose higher. Patronizing liberals. That’s just my opinion and it’s supposedly a free country!

H: It totally is a free country, or I’d have been stoned to death by now. If you could come over to my house for dinner right now, what would you like me to cook for you?

C: That pulled pork you had on your blog this week.

Then I was gonna cook the dish she chose, but it hadn’t occurred to me that she was gonna say something I had already blogged. So I made up a dish for her. It’s exotic, yet down-to-earth. It’s east-meets-west-meets-north-meets-south. Courtney calls it Nouvelle Soul (I’m totally stealing that, btw).

Coco” Chowder

This is corn chowder with coho salmon and coconut milk, spiced up with galangal and star anise. Corn’s sweetness pairs wonderfully with salmon. Serves 4-6.

2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 oz salt pork (or 2 slices bacon)
1 celery rib,diced
½ jalapeño, seeded and minced
½ c red onion, diced
¾-1 lb. waxy potatoes (I used Russian banana fingerlings), diced
1 c frozen corn
1 can creamed corn
1 c coconut milk
3.5 c seafood stock (I used homemade crawfish stock from the freezer)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp grated fresh galangal (ginger is an acceptable substitute)
3 star anise pods
2 tbsp basil chiffonade
8 oz. coho salmon fillet, skinned and deboned
S&P to taste
Garnish: arugula chiffonade or chopped cilantro

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot melt the butter over medium-high. Add the olive oil to prevent the butter from browning, and add the salt pork. Let the pork render for a minute, then add the celery, jalapeño and onion. Toss in a pinch of salt so the mirepoix sweats (we don’t want browning here).

Add the potatoes and frozen corn, and stir to coat with the buttery pork fat. Add the creamed corn, coconut milk and stock, the bay leaves and the star anise. Simmer over medium-low until the potatoes are tender, ~20 minutes.

When the potatoes are nice and tender, turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves and star anise. Slice the salmon into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup with the basil. The latent heat from the soup will cook the salmon.

Pairs well with a nice tart Reisling.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's the Valentine's Day menu of the joint where my handsome genius hubz got reservations:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nice Matters

Or, Why Gluten-Free Vegans Bug the Shit Out of Me.

Gluten? The fuck?

Okay, here's the thing: if you have celiac disease and actually can't digest gluten, then that's one thing. That really fucking sucks for you, but you're getting by just fine eating a lot of Asian food and probably even eat meat. I know a few of you.

But if you are just a control freak who "recently discovered" you're allergic to gluten, just go fuck yourself. I'm sorry. Did you spend your whole life having explosive diarrhea every time you ate a piece of bread, and waited until you were in your 20s to get that looked at? Or did you just wake up one day and go, "Gee, I really wish I could eliminate one more thing from a diet that is so restrictive that it completely defies evolutionary biology. Let's see what my naturopath thinks!"

You'll never be a real chef, but enjoy eating your spelt and tofu doused in Bragg's Liquid Aminos and brewer's yeast and pretend that the French aren't laughing their asses off at you.

Okay, people who don't know me: don't fly off the handle about this post. This is my Louis Black-style humor. Seriously, don't be a twat.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Red Kale and Potato Tortilla

Spanish tortilla reminds me of a frittata. I suspect they are the Bobsey-twins of the egg family. It's like an open-faced omelette that is started on the stove and finished in the oven. A perfect light supper or Saturday brunch. Núria can probably testify. Can I get a witness?

Red kale and potato tortilla
Serves 4 as a first course or two as a light dinner

1 fist-sized white or Yukon gold potato, scrubbed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced shallot
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh thyme
pinch red chili flake
3 tbsp julienned sun-dried tomatoes or chopped fresh ones
3 c kale chiffonade (2 or 3 leaves, destemmed)
4 eggs, lightly beaten (or 2 eggs and 1/2 egg white for a lighter, fluffier version)
1/3 c grated manchego

Preheat your oven to 350. Heat a little oil over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet. Saute the shallot for a minute and toss in the potatoes. Stir the potatoes around and add the garlic and seasonings. When the potato starts to stick to the pan add about a half cup of water and put a lid on it. Let it simmer in there until the potato softens up to your liking. Remove the lid and stir the starchy liquid around, and then add the tomato and kale. Stir this around until the kale wilts a bit. Give it some cracks of pepper and a pinch of salt.

Slowly pour the eggs over the top of the veggies, and let it sit in the hot pan for a minute until it begins to set up a bit. Then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for like 10 minutes.

(Okay, you caught me. There's a bit of crumbled sausage in there too. You can add if you like but it's of no consequence to omit.)

Serve in wedges. I like mine with some toasted como. If you were to have this for dinner you could add a nice mixed green salad.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Salad is a basic thing.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I try to eat healthy during the week so I can binge on weekends. No, I don't have a disorder, but if I ate the way I want to every day I would have an ass the size of Ganymede. So I eat a grip of salads. Tonight I lovingly reheated the leftover pulled pork for the Hubz and treated myself to a microscopic garden burger. Scott actually remarked that I made a frowny face when I looked at my stupid tiny burger compared to his perfect sammich. But I tell you one thing, I can make the shit out of a salad.

Salad is such a basic thing that it doesn't even really warrant a post, but I'm finnuh try and get something new up every day, just as a disciplinary measure (practice makes perfect!). So here's a photo of the lovely salad I made.

Man, lemme tell you something. Cutting the supremes out of a blood orange is really fucking futile if you didn't just have your knife sharpened last week. It's a damn good thing I did, else I'da ended up with a handful of purple pulp and angry juice dripping down my elbow. Since my paring knife is due for its turn at the cutlery guy, I ended up having to use my huge chef's knife for the job.

And by the way, next time you're at Ikea, check out the food section. I don't mean the cafeteria, I'm talking about the little Swedish grocery they have there. I picked up some great cheese called Morfars Brännvinsost - an aqvavit-soaked Prästost. It's an aged white cheese that tastes a bit like a sharp, crumbly Jarlsberg. Perfect with a citrusy, sweet fruit.

So I grabbed a handful of mixed baby greens, shaved some Ikea cheese on, and topped with the blood orange supremes and pine nuts. Dressed with a drizzle of walnut oil, good balsamic and some Maldon (yes, I drop $6 for a box of salt - it's like eating diamonds and it is worth it) and cracked pepper, and you're eating simple perfection.

I made my own aqvavit once, but didn't like it very much. Maybe I should try my hand at
Morfars Brännvinsost.

Pulled Pork Sammies with Kohlrabi Slaw

We had Sus and Shin over for dinner last night. We love those guys, especially since they brought that little squishy stress-toy of theirs (oh, right - they're called babies - my bad). Sage is the cutest little happa you've ever seen. He makes little cooing, gurgling noises and smells like sweet cream butter. I want.

I made pulled pork, my first try. It was exactly how I wanted it to turn out. I love it when I get my way! I also made my newly-invented kohlrabi-arugula slaw (I like to call it Rocket Slaw) to go on top, some Carolina-style barbecue sauce, some German potato salad for a little starch, and a pitcher of Lynchburg lemonade to tipple.

Hey, you might not realize this, but it's kinda awkward to take snaps of dinner when you have guests over. Especially if it's more than one guest, one of whom is an infant. So while I did take quite a few pics, they are mostly blurry because I didn't think it was good hostessing to set the light box up on the dinner table. So fucking sue me.

Also, I found out that you can get reasonably good pulled pork even if you were too busy getting drunk and playing Rock Band the night before to remember to get the dry rub going 8 hours in advance. Win.

Pulled Pork
Serves 4 adults generously, but no babies.

2-3 pounds of pork butt

Dry Rub
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
cracked black pepper

Combine these things and rub the mix all over the pork butt. I mean really rub it in good. I cut little slashes all over the meat so I could shove more rub in. Fridge the thing for at least 4 hours (this is all the time I had - overnight would've been preferable). Pull pork out of the fridge an hour before cooking time.

Preheat oven to 250oF. Brown the meat on all sides to get some nice Maillard flavor - the sugar in the rub will burn a little while it caramelizes, but I think this adds a nice depth of flavor. Cover and roast for ~75-90 minutes per pound (my 2.74-lb. butt was done in 4 hours), flipping the meat every hour or so. On the last flip the meat will fall completely apart in your tongs and that's how you know it's ready.

In the meanwhile, you can make some kohlrabi-rocket slaw and sauce to go on the sammies with the meat.

Kohlrabi-Rocket Slaw
Okay, so the photos came out really blurry and unusable. I'll try to get good ones later. Just imagine you're looking at very green cole slaw. Raw kohlrabi tastes like a sweet, mild radish, and it's lovely.

I got a good one after all - uber close-up money-shot. Yes, folks, that's a raisin.

3 tbsp mayo (I use low fat)
1/3 c white balsamic vinegar (rice vinegar would work)
a splash of cream
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
fat pinch salt
some cracks of pepper

4 baby (or one adult) kohlrabi, scrubbed - you only need to peel it if using full-size kohlrabi
half a bunch of arugula, rinsed scrupulously (I think it makes about 1.5 cups when minced up)
1/2 c flatleaf parsley
2 tbsp dried cranberries or golden raisins

In a large bowl, combine the dressing ingredients. Yes, the cream will curdle a bit in the vinegar, but the honey and dijon will emulsify things so don't freak out. You can fiddle with this to taste, but I like a sweet, vinegary slaw, and the kohlrabi and rocket are peppery enough to stand up to it.

Slice the kohlrabi thinly, then chuck it into the food processor and pulse a few times until it's minced up. Dump this into the dressing bowl. Tear up the arugula and parsley and chuck it in the food processor, pulse a bit until it's chopped very fine and dump it into the bowl with the other stuff. Add the cranberries/raisins and stir. If you can let this sit for 15 or 20 minutes to let the flavors meld, it's better.

Carolina-style barbecue sauce

2/3 c apple cider vinegar
2/3 c white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c hot sauce (such as leftover Frank's Red Hot -Mango wing sauce from last weekend)
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
pinch salt
cracks of pepper

Blend and serve in a little bowl with a spoon for easy access (but no squirt-shirt-stain-disasters).

Serve pork on soft buns, top with a spoonful of sauce, then a nice wad of slaw.

If I'd really been on my A-game, I'da made some barbecue beans and sweet potato fries to go with the sammiches, but I was tragically not. Next time. Instead, here's a nice cocktail recipe.

Lynchburg lemonade

Makes "some" cocktails. I don't know how big your glasses are.

5 -6 oz. fine Kentucky bourbon such as Maker's Mark
one liter of lemon Italian soda
one finger of Buddha's hand, sliced up into little finger-coins (or a couple lemon slices)

Stir these together and garnish with Buddha's hand/lemon.

Cin Cin, y'all!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Turkey roulade with soba and baby shiitakes

We got Rock Band today! Scott and I are in a fake Playstation 3 heavy metal band that we named MÖrning Wüd (okay, it was my witty idea to fuck it up with umlauts). We so totally melt faces that I barely mustered enough ambition to cook dinner. Seriously, I am cracking out so hard on pretending that I'm just a singer in a rock and roll band (gagh, terrible Moody Blues pun) that I could've just eaten top ramen for dinner. However! I did make food, and it was even premeditated and delicious.

First, though, I should mention that I picked up some lights from Ikea (those $5 rectangular, glass tabletop numbers) and built a ghetto-ass light box for photographing my food. I dunno, it seems like a good thing to be able to shoot meals besides breakfast without having orange-puke tones on everything.

Ooh, but even before that, I should brag about the lovely morning I had today. It was fucking redonkulous out today, like maybe 60 degrees, and sunny, so Scott and I took a nice stroll to Broder for some Swedish brekkie. I had the baked eggs "Jordbruken" (w/caramelized onions and bacon) and Scott had the pancakes with lingonberries and lemon curd. Yummeh. Good brekkie got me all revved-up to walk some more down to the fancy-pants grocery store. I picked up some incredible produce such as baby purple kohlrabi, purple cauliflower, golden beets, multi-colored radishes, some nice arugula, some red kale and a Buddha's hand citrus.

Ain't it pretty? I entered this into the Eat Fresh - Wonderful Winter blog event over at Meeta's joint.

And hey guess what, did you know that kohlrabi greens are edible, tasty even? I suspected as much, and it was confirmed with a quick Googling. Just perfect for the roulade I had been planning.

Alright alright, the recipe already.

Turkey Roulade with Soba and Baby Shiitakes
I made duxelles of baby shiitakes and minced kohlrabi greens, and it guess what? It works! The lemon zest makes the soba taste like it has been spiked with Ponzi sauce. Serves 2.

1 c kohlrabi greens, minced finely*
1 c shiitake mushrooms, minced finely*
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 turkey "breast tender"
1 tbsp shiro miso
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 or 3 tbsp gari (pickled ginger like they give you for sushi)

*I used the food processor to get this done in 10 pulses.

4 oz. Soba
a bit of cooking oil
small handful shiitake, sliced - ends up being like 1 cup before cooking
1/3 c minced red onion
2 tbsp minced lemon zest (I used a "finger" from a Buddha's hand)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 c sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp wasabi powder
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1/2 sheet of nori, sliced into slivers (I used scissors)

Heat oven to 375oF. In a medium saucepan, heat up the sesame oil over medium heat. Saute the minced shiitake, kohlrabi greens, shallot and ginger, stirring occasionally until slightly softened. Add the soy sauce, sake and mirin and cook for 5 minutes until the alcohol cooks out of the sake and the liquids reduce by about 50%. This is your duxelles.

Meanwhile, cut that nasty tendon out of the turkey and butterfly it to produce one fillet ~1/4" thick. Smear the fillet with miso, then sprinkle on the sesame seeds and top with sliced gari in a single layer as shown below.

When duxelles is ready, spread a 1/2"-thick layer on top of the gari, then roll up the whole thing into a ...uh...roll.
Now tie that shit up tight. Since I'm terrible at this step, I won't bore you with details, but look at the photo and pretend I'm skillfully tying this up using only one piece of string instead of five or six.

Brown this in a pan (you could use the duxelle pan) over medium-high heat until you get some Maillard on all sides, then pop it in the oven until a thermomter insterted into the middle (at an angle) reads ~150. This'll take about 15 minutes, give or take. When it's done, pull it out and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Whilst the roulade is roasting/resting, get some water boiling for the soba (I take it you know how to boil some noodles). Heat up a different medium-sized saute pan over medium heat. Get some more oil heated up and saute the onion, shiitakes and lemon zest until tender. Add the liquids and saute until reduced (like for the duxelles). Add the wasabi, stirring until dissolved.

Oh god I hope you were keeping tabs on the soba. Nothing worse than overcooked soba. When it's al dente, strain and rinse in cold water. Then stir-fry it for just a few seconds in the mushroom pan. Stir in the sesame seed. If I had some green onion, I'da totally sliced it razor-thin and stirred it in the pan with the soba.

Slice roulade into inch-thick medallions. Plate by nesting a nice wad of soba/mushroom, top with medallions and then sprinkle the sliced nori on the whole thing. We enjoyed this with some hard rocking, but a premium cold sake would be fine, too.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year, everybody! It's the Year of the Rat. I got some of my coworkers to join me for dim sum at House of Louie, my favorite old-school joint in Chinatown. The red vinyl booths and golden dragons really give it that classic charm.

Portland Ground: Pictures of Portland Oregon - Used by Creative Commons License

There is something so gratifying about picking little plates of moist dumplings and fluffy buns off carts that roll past your table every 30 seconds. It's no wonder that dim sum is so popular in America!

I perused Blogger today to find a good Chinese food blog, and found some that're pretty cool. Here's a link to the Gary Soup Blog- a blog about eating Chinese food. His post about eating the zodiac is very interesting, although I'm not sure if I'm ready for any barbecue rat.

Here is another Chinese food blog that I find very informative: Eating China. The recipe for whole steamed fish looks so simple yet completely sublime. My own experience with steaming seafood was when I attempted to steam two live dungeness crabs in my traditional bamboo steamer. Those little fuckers started crawling out of the steamer! I had to weigh down the top with a heavy pan and stand outside with my fingers in my ears while they shrieked their last shrieks.

I hope you all enjoy a healthy and proseperous year!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Get the Penicillin!

Photo by Honeysuckle

...cuz I just came down with a raging case of the warm 'n fuzzies.

We're having cupcakes today at work, yay! Cupcake Day! And not just any cupcakes, but Saint Cupcakes. They are the yummiest and prettiest cupcakes in Portland, and so I took a gander at their website and blog today in anticipation.

Well, I got sucker-punched by cuteness of the written variety and think you all deserve some of this action. In the spirit of Ballentimes Day coming up (that's how my kitty would say Valentine's if he could talk) I am sending them a secret-admirer love note and telling them that I think they're the bee's knees. And I think you should do something like that for your favorite cupcake (or coffee or burrito) place, too.

Saint Cupcakes, you are my favorite!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I heart my knife

I'm having my beloved Wüsthof sharpened and that means I'm without my chef's knife for TWO DAYS! The knife guy only does sharpening on Wednesdays, so I hafta bring my knife in this afternoon and won't get it back until Thursday morning. I feel like he may as well have asked me to drop off my right hand for two days.

I know the Japanese knives have a loyal following, but you just can't argue with German cutlery. I mean this is a sexy knife! I love this knife. It's an extension of my arm.

Oh, little knife, I will miss you.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Junk Food Thanksgiving

It's Super Bowl Sunday! That really doesn't mean shit to me 'cept I can make every junk food delicacy that my little heart fancies. I just woke up from the food coma that can only be induced by daytime beers and white carbs.

Mini pizza, sliders with extra sharp cheddar on potato rolls, buffalo "wangs" (the store was out of chicken wings and I had to settle for breast tenders, boo) with creamy blue cheese dressing, pigs in a blanket (those are like pogos for you Canucks), tater tots, and spinach dip in a bread bowl. It's like we let a first-grader decide what to make. Except that there was lots of beer involved.

I ended up bailing on the bread bowl in lieu of sliced bread because it was looking like consuming a whole loaf of piccolo como (I bought it because it's the shape and size of a football) would be daunting for just the two of us. The spinach dip is good, though. It'll be a good sammich spread for lunches this week.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bela Lugosi's Dead

I hafta use up the rest of the buttermilk in the fridge before it goes bad. Wait, does buttermilk even go bad? It's already got cultures in it, right? That's neither here nor there - I made biscuits. Delicious, fluffy buttermilk biscuits.

I insist that the very best biscuits are baked in a cast-iron skillet all glued together so that each one is soft and fluffy as a little happy butter cloud. That way if you like a little flaky crumb, you can go for the edge, but if you prefer a biscuit unencumbered by crust you can shoot for the center pieces.

Buttermilk Biscuits, the Only Right Way
There are definitely many ways to make biscuits, but if you want impossibly gossamer biscuits such as these, you just can't fuck with the dough too much or you'll build up too much gluten. Makes a dozen biscuits.

2 c AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3/4 c buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 450o F. In your handy-dandy food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together to combine. Add the butter and blitz until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the milk all at once and hold your finger on the pulse button for like 4 or 5 seconds until the dough comes together. Stop the instant it does! Turn that bitch out onto a floured surface.

Mush the dough just barely enough to get it into a ball. Don't even bother rolling the dough, just press and flatten gently with your fingers, eye-balling it to roughly the size of the skillet. This is important if you want to not fuck this up. Cut the dough into biscuits by pressing straight down with a scraper or a knife (don't saw back and forth) and lay it into the skillet. Brush the tops with a little melted butter or milk.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (it takes a bit longer when making it a big loaf like this), until the top is golden brown and crusty, or sounds a bit hollow to the tap of a fingernail.

These are nice with jams - I have blueberry, strawberry and apricot. As always, serve with copious amounts of sausages. (I'm a fucking German girl, verstanden?)

You're sitting there, wondering what the hell any of this has to do with Bauhaus, aren't you. So I was fixin' to serve up the brekkie, and I start pouring the bubbly into the glasses. Then I pull out the peach-orange juice numminess and I was telling Scott that this'll be like a Mimosa-lini. Or a Bella-mosa. Or a Bela Lugosa. (I like to come up with catchy names for my cocktails.) And then my handsome genius husband, says "well if you're gonna call it a Bela Lugosa you hafta put some blood orange in it." Oh fuck sake. Blood orange mimosa - why didn't I think of that!

Unfortunately, the sinister color of the blood orange was somewhat diluted by the sparkly, and didn't look as amazing as it sounded like it should've. It tasted nice, though. It's booze for breakfast!

Bela Lugosa
I know his name is Bela Lugosi, but Lugosi doesn't rhyme with mimosa, so there. This is a hybrid between a mimosa and a bellini. Serves 2.

8 oz. Prosecco (Trader Joe's has a $5 Prosecco that is very drinkable)
6 oz. peach-orange juice (Florida's Own makes a nice organic one that's 100% juice)
juice from one blood orange

Combine each of things and pour into a champagne flute or some other elegant, narrow glass. A test tube would be a propos.