Tag Archives: savory

Pumpkin gnocchi with sage brown butter

26 Oct

In my last two weeks of pregnancy I really, really wanted cinnamon rolls.  Turns out cinnamon rolls are one of those things that are everywhere when you aren’t looking for them, and then mysteriously disappear as soon as you want them/are super gigantic and can’t travel very far.  I ended up getting some from the grocery store (the Mariano’s ones were way better than the Whole Foods ones), and an un-iced one from the bakery down the street (why would you have an un-iced cinnamon roll?!)  These were not satisfying, so the last thing I baked before baby came was those awesome vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls that I always make when I want cinnamon rolls.

Cinn-fully delicious.  This is apparently a standard cinnamon roll pun.

Cinn-fully delicious. This is apparently a standard cinnamon roll pun.

They were packed with butter because I’m not actually vegan.  I should’ve made cream cheese frosting for them instead of the vegan simple white icing (powdered sugar + milk + vanilla).

Anyways, almost every time I make those cinnamon rolls I end up making pumpkin gnocchi, because they don’t use an entire can of pumpkin.  They leave just enough leftover pumpkin to make a recipe of gnocchi.  Pumpkin gnocchi = way easier/faster than potato, though probably the same if you start from raw pumpkin.  It’s taken me three hours to make potato gnocchi, while pumpkin come together in about half an hour if you don’t bother to do the dimpling (which I don’t because I’m lazy).

Cinnamon rolls are not a necessary ingreedyent, but make them if you're feeling greedy.

Cinnamon rolls are not a necessary ingreedyent, but make them if you’re feeling greedy.

So few ingredients!  Flour, pumpkin, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg.  Also, in our defense I made the gnocchi the day after the cinnamon rolls.  So that’s why we’ve already eaten four of them.

Orange you glad I make so many puns for you?

Orange you glad I make so many puns for you?

The key to gnocchi is to not mix it too much- a very, very light touch is needed, or else the dumplings get gluey/chewy instead of pillowy.  Start your pot of water boiling now.  Once your ingredients are barely mixed, you need to lightly roll the dough into four ropes (about half an inch in diameter) and cut the dumplings with a fork.

Let me show you the ropes, kid.  These are the ropes.  No literally.

Let me show you the ropes, kid. These are the ropes. No literally.

This would be a terrible pillow fight

This would be a terrible pillow fight.

I cut one rope at a time, then toss that batch of gnocchi into the pot.  It takes about the same amount of time to cut a rope as it does for one batch to cook.  The gnocchi are done when they rise to the top of the water.  Use a slotted spoon to pick them up.

I wonder if the author of Tortilla Curtain makes pasta a lot- you know, b/c he's Boyle all the time

I wonder if the author of Tortilla Curtain makes pasta a lot- you know, b/c he’s Boyle all the time.

Leave them in a colander and toss them with a little olive oil so they don’t stick to each other.  IMG_20140926_120122557

 

I have a windowsill herb garden so I threw tons of sage leaves into a most of a stick of butter.

When horses take photos, I wonder if they go "Say Gee!" (sounds like sage)

When horses take photos, I wonder if they go “Say Gee!” (sounds like sage)

Sage brown butter, if you haven’t had it before, is amazing.  Just put butter into a pan until it sizzles, then stops sizzling (that’s the browning part), and then put in a ton of sage leaves.  Recipes on the internet call for eight leaves, which is crazy.  Put in as many as you can.  The crispy sage leaves are delicious!  And they impart such a rich flavor to the butter.

Once the sauce is done, throw the gnocchi in the pan, toss, and eat with some grated parmesan on top.

IMG_20140926_121350251_HDR

 

Pumpkin gnocchi with sage brown butter sauce

Gnocchi recipe is unadapted from The Skinny Fork, so I won’t write it here.

Sauce:

Melt 6-8 TB of butter in a pan, until it sizzles, foams, and subsides.  Butter will be nut brown.  Add 8-20 sage leaves and let them fry for a few minutes.  Don’t let them burn!  Eat with anything.

My mom’s rau muong xao toi (Vietnamese-style morning glory with garlic)

2 Sep

Since my mom’s thit kho recipe is one of my most popular posts, I thought I’d share another traditional Vietnamese recipe.  While I was in Boston, I got to visit the new small Korean grocery store, H Mart, in Cambridge.  So I looked up if they existed in Chicago, and lo and behold there’s one in the suburbs!  We took a trip out there last weekend- I love this grocery store!  There’s a food court in it with delicious Korean food!  And they sell marinated meat, and lots of other goodies that are hard to find elsewhere (the best instant Ramen, enoki mushrooms, Korean melons, lychees, kimchi… I’m just listing stuff we bought.)  In particular, they sell a vegetable under the name ong choy, which is also known as water spinach, morning glory, and in Vietnamese, rau muống.  If you ever go to Vietnam, Rau muống xào tỏi is pretty much the cooked vegetable side dish you’ll get.  Maybe some veggies in a soup, but overall there it’s a lot of fresh veggies with whatever you’re eating, or this garlicky tasty side dish.

I'm not really spoon-feeding you this recipe (muống means "spoon" in Vietnamese)

I’m not really spoon-feeding you this recipe (muống means “spoon” in Vietnamese BOOM BILINGUAL WORD PLAY)

You can also get this dish in Chinese restaurants, where they often put oyster sauce on it.  But we’re cooking Vietnamese today, so fish sauce all the way!  Also, I haven’t seen this dish a ton in Vietnamese restaurants, but it’s in most homes- we compared it to how most American restaurants don’t have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ubiquitous.

My great-aunt has a nifty tool for splitting the woody stems so you can eat them.  But I’m lazy/don’t like stems so I just cut them off and discarded them.  Make sure you wash the veggies really well- just like spinach it’s easy to get dirt in the leaves.  Then chop them into two-inch segments.

Y'all have too many expectations of me and my puns- why can't you leaf me alone?

Y’all have too many expectations of me and my puns- why can’t you leaf me alone?

Heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a big skillet over medium-high heat.  Then roughly chop up some garlic cloves and put into the oil.

Garlic can be so sixy (I split one of the cloves in half when peeling it)

Garlic can be so sixy (I split one of the cloves in half when peeling it)

I mean, it's in the name: garlic cLOVE.

I mean, it’s in the name: garlic cLOVE.

Let that cook for a few minutes until very lightly brown, then dump in all of the veggies.

After the chief of police in Houston went on a radical diet, people started calling him light Lee Brown

After the chief of police in Houston went on a radical diet, people started calling him light Lee Brown

If you’ve washed them thoroughly and not dried them, the water sticking to them should be enough.  But if it’s not (like if you start seeing dry looking leaves around), add a handful of water (a couple tablespoons).

This cooks pretty fast- 5-6 minutes fast.  Just like spinach!  Give it a good stir every minute or two; I’m not a constant-stirring kind of person (so I’ve never made risotto).

Cheerleaders eat a lot of salad, right?  They're always cheering RAW-RAW!

Cheerleaders eat a lot of salad, right? They’re always cheering RAW-RAW!

I wonder if some of them like to mix it up and chant PARTIALLY COOKED PARTIALLY COOKED!

I wonder if some of them like to mix it up and chant PARTIALLY COOKED PARTIALLY COOKED!

Just kidding, I know no cheer routine would be so ridiculous.  That just isn't DONE.

Just kidding, I know no cheer routine would be so ridiculous. That just isn’t DONE.

While that’s cooking, make your nuoc cham-dipping sauce.  This is a lot of sugar, some lime juice, some fish sauce, minced garlic, and water.  My mom always says to do it to taste, but it’s roughly equal amounts of sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce as a base, then add an equal amount of water (so double the volume by using water).  Then add a tiny pinch more sugar, and whisk it all together.  Taste it and see if it’s too limey or too fishy, and add water/sugar/lime until it tastes good.  You can mince a few garlic cloves and/or a few hot peppers and add them too- I went with garlic this time.

You could call my mom Ursa Major- she's a big dipper

You could call my mom Ursa Major- she’s a big dipper

My mom likes to dip the cooked veggies in the sauce, but I was feeling lazy so I just poured a bunch of it over the vegetables.  We don’t like adding fish sauce to dishes that are cooking because then the whole house smells like fish sauce- just add it afterwards.  Then I took the leftover garlicky sauce and poured it over some steamed salmon, and we had a meal with white rice.

IMG_20140901_125100421

 

Rau muong xao toi (from my mom)

A bunch of ong choy/water spinach/morning glory

Six-eight cloves of garlic

1-2 TB Fish sauce

Half a lime

1-2 TB Sugar

1. Wash the greens WELL.

2. Heat up some oil in a big pan.  Cook rice/protein now if you want.

3. Roughly chop five or six cloves of garlic and add to the oil.

4. Chop up the greens into two inch pieces.  Discard woody stems.

5. When garlic is lightly brown, add the greens to the pan.  Stir.  Cook for five-six minutes, until everything is wilted and cooked-looking.

6. Mix juice of half a lime with 1 TB of sugar.  Add 1 TB of fish sauce and 3 TB of water, stir until sugar is totally dissolved.  Add a pinch more sugar.  Taste.  Add more fish sauce, lime juice, or sugar to taste.  Optional: mince two more cloves of garlic and add to dipping sauce.

7. Either serve warm greens with dipping sauce, or pour sauce over greens.  Eat!

The best burger ever

2 Jul

I went through a big burger phase a few weeks ago (we may have had four burgers in three days), and this recipe really is the best burger ever.  It was better than the $14 burger at the fancy butcher shop across the street.  It’s better than any burger I’ve had.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good barbecue and grill marks and all that (in fact I had my first grilled burger of the summer last night!).  But you just can’t get the same juiciness on a grill as you can in your cast-iron (because that juiciness will just drip down the grill and away from your burger).  Honestly I’m not sure how much the “smashing” step does for the crust of the burger (wouldn’t throwing a patty into a searing hot cast iron sear it just as well?), but I do it anyway because this recipe has worked out so well for me.  It’s also made me realize why people follow recipes closely- because they work, over and over again!

After we got that cast-iron for Christmas, I started cooking a lot more meat.  By now I’ve made these burgers three or four times and they’re delicious every time.  I also got a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid (thanks in-laws!), so the first few times I ground my own meat (half chuck, half sirloin).  But we live across the street from an excellent butcher and their fresh-ground meat is just as good.  However, if you don’t have access to fresh-ground meat and just see the stuff in the store, I highly recommend seeking it out.

Yeah, I work out.  That's how I got such nice-looking buns.

Yeah, I work out. That’s how I got such nice-looking buns.

I love ketchup, but these burgers are so good that ketchup would just distract you from the flavor-all you need is that melty cheese and sweet grilled onion (pressed right into the patty), and maaaaybe a slice of tomato/lettuce.  Honestly I put on the tomato just to please my husband (because then there’s a bit of health on the plate).

Anyways, let’s start with meat grinding.  If you’re using the one I used, you’ll want to slice your meat into strips (maybe 1-2 inches wide), and then throw it in the freezer while you put together your machine/do something else for awhile.  Don’t forget when cutting chuck to AVOID the white ligament-y parts (they’ll get stuck in the grinder and be a hassle).  Another reason to use sirloin (which is delicious!)

I was really nervous to meat his parents

I was really nervous to meat his parents

I thought it'd be a terrible grind

I thought it’d be a terrible grind

Apparently if you want it to be as finely ground as at the store, you should grind your meat twice.  I didn’t do that and it was still delicious.

Next, start heating up that cast-iron skillet on medium-high or high if you like to live dangerously.  The cast-iron skillet is key.  Incidentally, the original website I got this from uses a big green egg for cooking, and a friend of ours has a crazy amazing website all about the Big Green Egg if you’re into that.  I’m very impressed by it.

While that’s heating up, slice your onion up (not the smart way) laterally so you get some rings, and separate those out.  Take out your cheese of choice.  Defrost your buns.  Slice your tomato.  Then make some meatballs!  Each of mine was 1/4-1/3 lb.

I was afraid my jokes would be too cheesy, I'd turn red as a tomato, I'd make someone cry, or flip out, and/or all of the above.  But my in-laws think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread!

I was afraid my jokes would be too cheesy, I’d turn red as a tomato, I’d make someone cry, or flip out, and/or all of the above. But my in-laws think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread!

Now put two or three meatballs in your cast iron and let cook for 30 seconds (I used my microwave timer).  Reset your timer for 2 minutes.  Smash down the meatballs (I need a metal spatula!), and press some onion rings into each one.  Then generously toss on some salt and pepper (THIS IS ALL THE SEASONING YOU NEED- use good meat!).

I shouldn't have worried- neither of us has ever really gone ball-istic in stressful situations.

I shouldn’t have worried- neither of us has ever really gone ball-istic in stressful situations.

Overall it was a smashing success!

Overall it was a smashing success!

I just had to remember to be myself, not un-Yen.

I just had to remember to be myself, not un-Yen.

Now’s a good time to think about toasting those buns.  I thought the next step would be hard, but it was actually super easy- flip the burgers so that they land on the onions.  You can smash them down a little to hold the onions there.  Let that cook for another two minutes, then put on a slice of cheese (if you want).  If you don’t want the cheese, you should still do the next step: cover with a lid and let cook for one more minute.

Cheese Louise I'm done with the in-law stories, I promise

Cheese Louise I’m done with the in-law stories, I promise

You can put a lid on your complaining already

You can put a lid on your complaining already

All of my worries have melted away

All of my worries have melted away

I generally do a double stack of these for a meal, and a single stack for a snack (yes I’ve impulsively stopped at the butcher, bought a half pound of chuck, and made burger snacks for the two of us at 3 p.m.  I also bought two slices of cheese from the butcher).  You can always make more if people want them- it only takes 5.5 minutes from start to finish.

P1010890

Best burger ever: link here (they also have better pictures than me)

Incidentals: this is my 100th blog post!  Huzzah!

I am currently in Somerville, MA doing this super cool research program.  What this means is that I don’t have access to a lot of my usual baking tools, or central air.  So we’ll see how the posts go for the next several weeks (maybe I’ll be more mathy!).  I am planning on making a rhubarb pie since the postdoc who was living with us for a week made a delicious and beautiful one twice.

Procrastinating…eggplant lasagna

16 Jan
Image

I can’t find an original source for this but I think it’s funny. Picked up from reddit

I’m giving a talk tomorrow in my advisor’s little seminar and I’m definitely doing that silly thing where I’m too unprepared and panicky about it, and hence rather than preparing I’m procrastinating (because the thought of preparing makes me realize how unprepared I am).  That’s a universal problem.  My specific problem is that this paper by Olshanskii is SO COOL and has all the things I like (functions between graphs, some combinatorics, some algebra, lots of pictures) and yet the talk I’m preparing is SO BORING.  Somehow I sucked all the fun out of the paper and now my talk is joyless, which is exactly what you *don’t* want to do when teaching or talking.  It’s like listing all the ways to integrate functions without ever saying why integration is so awesome.  Giving someone that flowchart above without a picture of an integral.

So instead, I’ll blog about a food!

Inspired by my friend Ellie, I tried to make eggplant lasagna.  It’s nice because my former-Paleo SO likes to avoid pasta, so I have yet to make regular lasagna (which my wonderful mom used to make all the time).

Yknow how to make these beautiful red fruits seem grosser?  Say the name aloud with a stress on the first syllable.  TOE-mato.  Ugh.  Just imagine toenailmatoes.

Yknow how to make these beautiful red fruits seem grosser? Say the name aloud with a stress on the first syllable. TOE-mato. Ugh. Just imagine toenailmatoes.

I don’t buy tomato sauce, though it seems so convenient and I’m all for convenience!  I just know I’ll never finish a jar before it goes bad and I hate throwing food out, while diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes in a can last approximately forever.  So the first thing to do is make some tomato sauce.

Step one: dice up some garlic.  If you have a garlic press, good for you!  We got one for Christmas and I promptly broke it.  I pushed too hard?  Here are some up close photos of how to peel garlic: press the flat side of a blade against the clove, and the peel will pop right off.

P1010664  P1010665 P1010666P1010667

 

Then start to fry up the garlic in a little bit of olive oil until fragrant.  I added some oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.

It'd probably burn your tongue if you (gar)LICKed this up

It’d probably burn your tongue if you (gar)LICKed this up

Pour in a can of diced tomatoes (I like the fire roasted ones sometimes).

P1010669

Sauce is hard to apPOURtion out

P1010670

Though portable, I wouldn’t take this all the way to SAUCE-alito. I mean, it’s probably too much liquid for the airline and CA is far.

Season with some salt and pepper, let it simmer for a bit while you slice up your eggplant.

Have you stopped by the waffle factory lately?  I hear there's a lot of great things coming out of that EGGoPLANT.

Have you stopped by the waffle factory lately? I hear there’s a lot of great things coming out of that EGGoPLANT.

Some people recommend salting your eggplant for awhile to leach the bitterness out, but I’ve never had a problem with bitter eggplant.  If you want to do that, slice em all and throw em in a strainer and sprinkle a bunch of salt all over that for half an hour.  I have zero patience so I also skip this step.  Another good step: roast the eggplant ahead of time (see the zero patience thing).  Roasting eggplant here.

I was thinking of a lemon pun BUT THEN I DISCOVERED THAT LEMMINGS ARE SO CUTE.  CLICK ON IMAGE.

I was thinking of a lemon pun BUT THEN I DISCOVERED THAT LEMMINGS ARE SO CUTE. CLICK ON IMAGE.

Now that your sauce is all simmered, give it a taste.  Apparently I added some onion to it at some point (how about that!) and a squeeze of lemon (never hurts).  I also like adding a bit of sugar to combat the acidity/bitterness of tomatoes.

Throw the sauce aside, and soften some diced onions in your pan with some olive oil.  Then throw in some sliced mushrooms (I’m lazy and buy the pre-sliced ones which always say you should wash them, which makes me think that’s beside the point of buying them presliced).  You could also put in whatever veggie here: zucchini, yellow squash, red or green peppers, etc. etc.

What if you built a cross between an RV and a dogsled?  Then you'd have a MUSHroom

What if you built a cross between an RV and a dogsled? Then you’d have a MUSHroom

Once that’s cooked, throw in some spinach.

When spinach goes to a concert in LA, it prefers the WILTern

When spinach goes to a concert in LA, it prefers the WILTern

I grabbed all the cheese-like products in my fridge, which was: half a ball of mozzarella, a pack of cream cheese, some shredded parmesan, and some greek yogurt.  I mixed it except for the mozzarella with two beaten eggs, some olive oil, and a tablespoon of this weird basil paste I bought.

There's some alright bases out there (10, 2 for binary, 3 for Cantor set proof)... but for sure the most sweet is base ILL

There’s some alright bases out there (10, 2 for binary, 3 for Cantor set proof)… but for sure the most sweet is base ILL

Then mix your cheese mixture with the veggies in the pan.

P1010680 P1010682

 

And layer tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese mix, tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese mix, tomato sauce, and top with sliced fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

P1010681 P1010683 P1010684

Bake at 350 until cheese is bubbly, 20 minutes or so.

P1010685 P1010687

 

This was so yummy!

Eggplant lasagna:

1-2 eggplants

1 can tomatoes + cloves of garlic + spices OR some spaghetti sauce

1 onion

vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, squash, kale, spinach, whatever…

1-2 fresh tomatoes

some mozzarella

2-3 eggs

ricotta or cream cheese

olive oil

1. If you’re making tomato sauce, make it.  Garlic and onion in olive oil until soft, then add a can of tomatoes, and spices (oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper) to taste.  Let simmer while you do other things.

2. Slice the eggplant.  If you prefer, salt it to eliminate bitterness.

3. Cook the vegetables.

4. Make the cheese mix: beat eggs with some olive oil and cheeses.  

5. Layer tomato sauce, eggplant, veggies, cheese, etc.  Top with fresh tomato slices and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and melted.

I’m just going to wake up at 6 tomorrow and write my talk again and make it more exciting.

My mom’s thit kho (Vietnamese braised pork with eggs)

22 Dec

So I said in my one-year anniversary post that the next post would be this recipe.  I apologize for lying.  I’ll try hard not to!

This is one of my favorite comfort foods.  It reminds me of my dad.  He didn’t make a wide variety of foods, but the ones he did he did right- bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew) with fresh bread from the store, bun mang vit (duck noodle soup with bamboo), pho ga (chicken pho, using two chickens), prime rib with twice-baked potatoes, and thit kho.  I also remember a lot of broccoli covered in cheese whiz, green beans dipped in hard boiled eggs crushed into soy sauce, and crackers covered in pieces of banana and cheese (I just tried to google this and got a woman who ate bananas + cheez whiz.  I am not willing to recreate this to show you a picture, you’ll just have to imagine the glory).

I don't want to support Cheese Whiz, so here is a pretty picture from this blog with a recipe for real cheese sauce.  Click on picture to go to Iowa Girl Eats.

I don’t want to support Cheese Whiz, so here is a pretty picture from this blog with a recipe for real cheese sauce. Click on picture to go to Iowa Girl Eats.

Luckily my mom also knows how to make thit kho, and I have an old email from my dad with the recipe for bo kho.  I doubt I’ll ever have pho ga or bun mang vit as delicious as he made it, but I will eventually try those too.  When I have a little more confidence with my Vietnamese cooking.

Thit kho is a wonderful food- sweet, fatty, salty.  The caramelized sugars play so well with the coconut juice, and the hard boiled eggs soaked in sauce are awesome when mashed into rice, with more sauce spooned on top.

You might want to hit the gym- looking a little porky there

You might want to hit the gym- looking a little porky there

Lots of recipes for this use just pork belly, but that’s a little TOO fatty for me.  I think it’s good to do 1/2 pork shoulder and 1/2 pork belly, or even 1/3 belly and 1/3 shoulder.  Marinate the pork with salt, pepper, and some minced garlic for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, boil a bunch of eggs.  I like to put my eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, let boil for about a minute, and then turn off heat and cover.  Forget about them (or check on them after 10 minutes or so).  Then drain off the hot water and pour cool water into the pot so you don’t burn yourself trying to peel them.  To peel the warm eggs, crack them on the rim of the pot, then peel the shell off into the water, giving them a quick rinse to get rid of any extra eggshells.  Then you can dump the water through a colander to throw out the egg shells (or use them in your compost!)

Caution: it's about to get eggstremely hot in here

Caution: it’s about to get eggstremely hot in here

P1010489

Turns out eggs can’t handle the eggstreme condition (of being cracked and peeled), but who would?

My mom likes to brown the pork in a bit of oil first, but this is an optional step.

Come on over and meat the family!  We're all very close- you could say we're cut from the same cloth.  If by cloth you mean animal.

Come on over and meat the family! We’re all very close- you could say we’re cut from the same cloth. If by cloth you mean animal.

Not an optional step: cook rice!  My roommate has an awesome rice cooker that I love to use, but I guess now is a good time to start rice in a pot if you want to do that.

Ohhh yeah baby you know how to turn me on.  It's really not that hard.

Ohhh yeah baby you know how to turn me on. It’s really not that hard.

Now for the fun part!  Put some sugar in a pot (yes I’m going to be that vague.  Verbatim from my mother: “not too much.  Oh that’s sort of a lot.”)  Turn the heat to medium and WATCH IT CAREFULLY.

P1010479 P1010480 P1010481 P1010482 P1010483 P1010484

It’ll go from sugar, to a syrup, to light brown, and finally to a deep brown.  MAKE SURE YOU PAY ATTENTION HERE because you don’t want it to burn.  When it’s that pretty color, toss in the pork and stir it around.

That's weird, it's like everyone has changed since you met us.

That’s weird, it’s like everyone has changed since you met us.

The Canadian saw this cooking and said "Pork, eh?".  The chef was Mexican and answered "because it's food?"
The Canadian saw this cooking and said “Pork, eh?”. The chef was Mexican and answered “because it’s food?”

Then dump in a bunch of coconut water.

I'm coco for coconut water!  I go nuts for coconut water!  There's no con in coconut water!  I should go into advertising.

I’m coco for coconut water! I go nuts for coconut water! There’s no con in coconut water! I should go into advertising.

Add in the eggs, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until pork is cooked.  Turn off the heat, and dump in a bunch of fish sauce and some black pepper.  Serve over white rice with steamed veggies or the bean sprout salad below.

Bean sprout salad: microwave a few handfuls of beansprout in a plastic bag for 1 min and 30 seconds.  Check how crispy they are.  If you like them softer, keep microwaving in 30 second intervals.

Make a dressing: mix a lot of rice vinegar, a spoonful of sugar, and a few drops of sesame oil.

We have all our labels on already, so we're willing to help out with someone dressing.  Don't know why someone would need help with that.

We have all our labels on already, so we’re willing to help out with someone dressing. Don’t know why someone would need help with that.

Cut up whatever herbs you have (we had cilantro and green onion, but basil, mint, parsley would all be fine too) very finely, and toss with the beansprouts and dressing.

These bean sprouts don't seem to be dressed... where's the paper?

These bean sprouts don’t seem to be dressed… where’s the paper?

1385157_10100358079038534_889028551_n

Thit kho (from my mom!)

2 lbs of pork- your choice of how much to do belly and how much shoulder/butt.

Garlic

Fish sauce

Sugar

Pepper

Eggs (1-2 per person)

Coconut water

Salad: bean sprouts, fresh herbs, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil

1. Cut the pork up into 2-inch chunks.  Season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic.  Refrigerate while you hardboil the eggs and start cooking the rice.  Since it takes awhile to hardboil eggs, if a half hour hasn’t passed yet this is a good time to make that salad- microwave the bean sprouts for 1-2 minutes.  Mix 2 TB rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, and a few drops of sesame oil.  Mince herbs.  Toss with bean sprouts and dressing and set aside.

2. (optional) Quickly sear pork cubes on all sides to get them a little brown.  Alternately, parboil the pork for a minute or two to get rid of the gunk and have a slightly clearer sauce.  Alternately, do neither of these things (which I do most often).

3. CAREFULLY caramelize 3 TB or so of sugar (see pictures above). Immediately stir in the pork and pour in about a cup of coconut juice/soda (I love cocorico).  If you have a sweet tooth, use all coconut juice (I do!), but otherwise, add in enough water to cover the pork.  Bring to a simmer.

4. Peel your eggs.  Toss em in.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until pork is done.  Eat over white rice with the bean sprouts.

Sunday brunch- dill and caramelized onion mini-souffles

3 Nov

I am ridiculously, incredibly lucky and blessed in many many parts of my life, and some of those are a) I live in Chicago! and b) I have an awesome boyfriend who likes spending stupid amounts of money on restaurants (whereas I spend relatively stupid amounts of money on ingredients like chia seed and flax and agar agar).  So last week we grabbed a chance to eat the Bocuse d’Or menu at Next, which was ridiculous and exciting and a five hour extravaganza and the best experience of about 4-8 hours of my life (close second is the Twilight movie marathon I did before the midnight showing of the fourth movie).  There’s literally a trailer for our meal: http://youtu.be/hSnhoOwoG_s.  Here’s some random review talking about how great it was.

Image
Packs mighty flavor for such a shrimp of a dish (it’s maybe 2 inches in diameter). Photo by Michel Gebert, click for link to the site for more pictures.

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, a teeny tiny savory souffle made with strong flavors of shrimp and fennel, with teeny juicy prawns tucked at the bottom.

I’m far from a molecular gastronomist or a great chef, but I’m a pretty decent cook and more importantly, I like food a lot.  Enough to experiment, to revel in the tasty and successful and to woman up and choke down the less tasty and less successful (well, besides that vegan key lime avocado pie I made with fermented avocado).  Whenever we go out to eat I like to make a mental note of the flavor combinations or of unusual things that go together- this is why I put raisins on my Indian curries or apples in my Vietnamese spring rolls.  So, inspired by this savory shrimp souffle, I thought I’d make mini savory souffles for brunch.  I opened my fridge and found a quarter of an onion, eggs, almond milk, half a bunch of dill and some cheddar cheese.  We seriously needed to go grocery shopping.

AL(l) I need in the MOND(e) is right here

AL(l) I need in the MOND(e) is right here

The basic steps for this souffle is much like the sweet souffle that I apparently haven’t posted yet.  Make a roux, add the milk until it’s thick, and in all the other things, bake.  Serve immediately before it depuffs!

But, but, but her piece was bigger!  Why did you melt mine???

But, but, but her piece was bigger! Why did you melt mine???

I agree, to just melt her like that without asking is just ROUX-de

I agree, to just melt her like that without asking is just ROUX-de

Oh c'mon how THICK are your skulls?  The cook doesn't care about any of your opinions.

Oh c’mon how THICK are your skulls? The cook doesn’t care about any of your opinions.

The thing that took longest here was grating all of the cheese.  This would be better with better cheese but I had a Costco block so that’s what I used.  I also caramelized some onions to put on the bottom of the souffles, like how Next had the little prawns on the bottom (prawns?  shrimp?  what are they called?)

Are these puns too cheesy?

Are these puns too cheesy?

All yolks aside, souffles are serious business

All yolks aside, souffles are serious business

Not a care in the world... that's not true; there's at least one: these CAREmelized onions

Not a care in the world… that’s not true; there’s at least one: these CAREmelized onions

So they tell you to beat the egg white until stiff, but I didn’t want to take the beater out of the box and wash it etc.  So I just whisked that egg white for 2-3 minutes and I got it pretty foamy/kept it’s shape-ish.  Whatever.  Egg whites can become like 8 times bigger and this one probably got twice as big, which is pretty good for hand whisking.

I barely got the whole bowl in this picture... maybe I should pick a whiter frame.

I barely got the whole bowl in this picture… maybe I should pick a whiter frame.

Enter the fold, my child.  And be... incorporated?

Enter the fold, my child. And be… incorporated?

This really was surprisingly easy.  Then just put the onions in your greased ramekins, pour the egg mix on top, and bake until done!

These make me tear up they're so cute

These make me tear up they’re so cute

2013-10-13_09-44-48_412

Dill and Caramelized Onion mini-souffles, adapted from food.com:

4 TB butter

1/4 onion

1/3 c flour

1 c milk

3 eggs

2 TB fresh dill

1/2 c grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 400.  It takes awhile which is why this step is up here.

Dice the onion and throw in a pan with a little bit of oil on medium.  Stir occasionally while doing below.

Melt the butter in a pot, then whisk in the flour to form a roux.  Once that’s mixed (see above picture; it can be sorta clumpy), pour in the milk and whisk hard so there’s no clumps.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and simmer for a few minutes (<5) until the milk is thickened.

Turn off heat under the milk.  If you haven’t already, grate your cheese, chop the dill, separate your eggs, grease your ramekins (I cut the recipe in half and made 4 mini ramekins).  If the onions are done to your liking, put them in the ramekins.  If not, keep cooking them.

Stir the cheese, dill, and egg yolks into the sauce.  Beat the egg whites until stiff or until you’re bored of doing so, and fold it in, a little bit at a time.  Then divide the mixture into the ramekins and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they look lightly golden brown on top and have poufed.  

Cauliflower Pizza! Also, on the joy of cooking

29 Sep

A few weeks ago, a friend from out of town visited and I took him to Longman & Eagle, my favorite restaurant in Chicago (if you go, you have to try the roasted bone marrow.  My yelp review here).  While there, I told him about this cauliflower pizza I had made.  Later, he asked me what other interesting weekend cooking projects I had on tap.  I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and he gave this pizza as an example of something special that one would devote an extra amount of time to, and perhaps make for a special occasion.  I told him that I made this pizza because it was a Tuesday and I had some cauliflower.  So, segue into a short thought about cooking.

People (generally around my age) are often impressed that I cook so much (by which I mean, every day).  I also eat every day, so it doesn’t seem all that crazy to me to put together the things that I eat.  Yet when I visit friends in New York, or friends who don’t wear jeans/shorts to work (another reason to love being a grad student), we only eat out.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good food out there for the buying, and I’m sure if you do it judiciously it’s also healthy.  Maybe I’m just a control freak, but I like knowing what’s in my food, and that kind of transparency just isn’t possible for most places (also it’s cheaper to eat at home but that’s an obvious statement unless you’re prone to eating at Chipotle when you go out and only eat lobster and steak at home).  I like how little oil I use, I like knowing my ingredients, I like undersalting food.  And I love cooking- the magical alchemy of it, the pleasure of serving others, the satisfaction of pointing at something and saying “Hey!  Look world!  I made that!  I might’ve spent four hours today reading half a page of mathematics and coming up with a list of questions to ask my advisor, but I just made something that will nourish myself and others that I can touch!  I’m not a useless waste of space!”

On a bit of a darker note, cooking grounds me in a world of the endless luxury of sitting on a couch that we own and paging through a novel while a 3-year old gets shot at a park ten miles away from me.  I mean, the problem of evil is a big one, and spirituality/faith/philosophy are all ways that people deal with it.  I guess I’m saying that cooking is a spiritual ritual for me- it connects me with the billions of humans who exist and have ever existed: all of the grandmothers, the mothers, the daughters, and happily, the grandfathers, the fathers, the sons.  The friends, the clans, the families- eating together, seeking out nourishment in the physical sense and satisfying the need in the social and emotional sense as well.  Everyone who has ever lived has seen/experienced evil in their lives, and closer to every day than not, touched food.  Just one little keyboard key away from good.  I’m saying that food is good.

Excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (link here for a fuller excerpt):

It matters because food matters (their physical health matters, the pleasure they take in eating matters), and because the stories that are served with food matter.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sushi “lunch dates” with my mom, and eating my dad’s turkey burgers with mustard and grilled onions at backyard celebrations, and of course my grandmother’s chicken with carrots. Those occasions simply wouldn’t have been the same without those foods — and that is important. To give up the taste of sushi, turkey or chicken is a loss that extends beyond giving up a pleasurable eating experience. Changing what we eat and letting tastes fade from memory create a kind of cultural loss, a forgetting.

So!  Cauliflower pizza!  Once upon a time boyfriend was “paleo” and we still don’t eat too many carbs.  This was my first time making pizza by myself.

Cauli-egg, cauli-cheese, cauli-salt... oh we just add cauli to one of the ingredients?  Whoops, my bad.

Cauli-egg, cauli-cheese, cauli-salt… oh we just add cauli to one of the ingredients? Whoops, my bad.

First thing you do: take out that food processor!  Grate the heck out of your cauliflower florets.

Best floral arrangement ever.

Best floral arrangement ever.

On the edges of the food processor, you can see the border collie(flower).  I named that piece CauliLassie.

On the edges of the food processor, you can see the border collie(flower). I named that piece CauliLassie.

It’ll eventually turn into cauliflower “rice”.  Toss it in a bowl with a handful of water, top it with a loose plate, and microwave it for 5 minutes (alternately you can just do the same thing in a pot).  Most recipes say to toss it in a sieve at this point, and I tried that, but like no water comes out so I’m not sure why you’d do this.  Anyways, throw the cooked pulp into a clean dish towel, wrap that up like you’re a stork, and squeeze.  Niagara falls is going to come out and you will be surprised.

This probably is how the stork sees the little human babies- strange piles of mush inexplicably inside a towel that you're expected to wrap up and carry.  Why?

This probably is how the stork sees the little human babies- strange piles of mush inexplicably inside a towel that you’re expected to wrap up and carry. Why?

This is the end of the squeezing but there's still a steady stream coming out of there

This is the end of the squeezing but there’s still a steady stream coming out of there

Squeeze until you’re sick of doing so, then mix all the dough ingredients together.  I had a teeny tiny piece of mozzarella and ran out, so then I subbed in parmesan.

You could use that flax gel I've talked about before here, or egg, yknow? (that's a pun on 'oregano')

You could use that flax gel I’ve talked about before here, or egg, yknow? (that’s a pun on ‘oregano’)

Pinch me, I must be dreaming... of a gluten-free pizza!

Pinch me, I must be dreaming… of a gluten-free pizza!

Mix that up, pat it out, and bake it at 400 while you make the toppings.  I did a simple tomato sauce by pulsing a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes with some garlic, olive oil, and spices.  Then I fried up some ham, drained a can of pineapple, and sliced up some mozzarella.

P1010336  P1010333P1010332P1010334

Top that pizza and throw it back in until the cheese is melted.  Yum!  This was a fork-and-knife pizza because I made the crust a bit too thick, but I’m interested in experimenting with a thinner crust.

Seriously plain pizza
Seriously plain pizza
Top o' the evening to you!

Top o’ the evening to you!

Cauliflower crust pizza: recipe adapted from the detoxinista and the lucky penny food blogs:

1 head of cauliflower

1 egg or egg substitute (1 Tb flax/chiaseed + 2 Tb water)

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1 Tb olive oil (because I didn’t have 1/4 c of grated mozzarella but you could use that too)

Pinches of sea salt, oregano, and basil

 

Preheat oven to 400.  Usually I don’t like preheating too much ahead of time but 400 is super hot and it’ll take this long to get it that hot.

Grate the cauliflower into snow using a food processor.  Cook the snow by either putting it with a bit of water (1/4 c) in a pot and boiling, then turning off the flame and covering for 5 minutes, or put it with a bit of water (2 TB) in a bowl and microwave for 4 minutes.

Get rid of as much water as possible by putting the cooked cauliflower mush in a clean dish towel and wringing it (let it cool a bit before doing this step).

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Pat out onto a silpat (unless you’re fancy and own a pizza stone etc.) and bake while you prepare your toppings (about 30 minutes).  Then top with toppings and keep baking until the cheese melts (another 10 minutes).

%d bloggers like this: