Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Korean Obsession

Sometimes, it is really hard to order at our favorite restaurant, so many things sound delicious.  And it is a rare, rare night when we order wrong.  But a few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened.  Ryan ordered an appetizer that was not great, but merely fine.  And maybe he could have lived with that, but he made the mistake of asking for more details about his second choice, the Korean Rice Cakes.  When he heard the name of the sauce, he said something along the lines of "that stuff is the shit," and promptly pulled up an e-mail he'd sent to himself earlier in the week consisting of exactly one word: gochujang. For the rest of the meal, those rice cakes were all he talked about.  By dessert, it was time for extreme measures.  After a brief consultation with our favorite waiter who advised "Just do it, or you'll be in her ear about it for the rest of the night," he ordered the rice cakes for dessert.  It was a very happy time for him.  But he hasn't really let it go.  He can't stop thinking about the gochujang.  Finally, we made a trip to a massive Asian grocery and bought some of our very own. Of course, I had to make something using it right away to shut him up show my love.  I'm nice like that.

recipe from Indonesia Eats,
serves 2

1 lb salmon
1/4 C gochujang
2 T + 1 t rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T honey
1 T vegetable oil

Whisk together the gochujang, rice wine vinegar, soy, garlic and honey.  Rinse the salmon and pat dry.  Pour the marinade in dish large enough to hold the piece of salmon.  Place the salmon in the marinade skin side up, then flip and place it skin side down, then return it to the skin side up position once the salmon is fully coated.  Marinate for 1 hour.

Heat up a large skilled with a little bit of cooking oil, something flavorless is best.  On medium high heat, cook the salmon 3-4 minutes a side or until an opaque pinkish-salmon color.

If you'd like to use the marinade as a dipping sauce, transfer it to a small pan and heat to a boil.  Then you're all set to use it again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest What?

This weekend I did my first ever guest post over at My Family Table!  It was only fair since I was using her grandmother's recipe to make knishes. So pop over there to see what's cooking.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

 My love for corned beef is deep and verges on tragic. Since Ryan doesn't eat red meat, there is no corned beef here waiting to be the star of a St. Patrick's Day supper.  Honestly, I don't even know how to make one. If it weren't for my mother, I would probably be doomed to a life without corned beef.  Except.  Remember how I said it verges on tragic?  There is exactly one thing that keeps it from being tragic, and that is that I am a cold-hearted shrew. I have taken matters into my own hands and invited myself to my mother's house for dinner.  My poor husband will have to pack himself something to eat if he comes along.  I know I should feel shame at this, but really the only thing I feel right now is hungry.  My mouth is watering just looking at the tender, juicy corned beef in the photos.  Don't you want some?

"Recipe"from my mother.  And you know how her recipes are.  

1 3-5 lb nitrate-free, organic, corned beef with lots of tasty spices on top(Why nitrate free? Damned if I know.  But I do know that nitrates are essentially saltpeter and my extensive exposure to the Revolutionary War has taught me that you use saltpeter to make gunpowder and there are many, many things I would put in my food before I put an additive that they use to make gunpowder).
Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Take the corned beef out of its package and rinse lightly. Try not to rinse off all the good spices, you want them to cook with the corned beef.  Find a large pan, hopefully something with a cover, that will also fit a rack to set the corned beef on, and room for some water.  I would do this in my dutch oven, but my mom has to use a pan, which she lines with tin foil and then covers with foil.  You want to avoid this if you can because the brine and tinfoil don't always play nice together and can give you an off flavor.  
So, put your rack in the pan, put the corned beef on the rack and the pour water in the pan up to the bottom of the corned beef. Cover with a lid or with foil as described above, cover tightly, not loosely. 

Pop it in the oven and check hourly, to see how the water is doing.  It's okay if there's more water, because the meat will give off some, you just don't want there to be less water.  That will make the meat dry out.


See?  The corned beef shrinks a lot, but it's getting all delicious and flavorful.  You should cook it for about an hour per pound.  At the end you'll get a glorious piece of meat.  Be sure to pick off the green leafy things from the spice mixture, because these are bay leaves and not particularly edible.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Use it Up Round Up

Last weekend I promised to help you with a little bit of spring fridge cleaning. 

This week, I gave you two ideas for using up leftover bits and ends and corners of things that aren't quite big enough for a starring role.
 Frittata - Tortilla - Omelet - You name the egg product, you name your dinner.  Follow some basic guidelines here.

Basically, use some potatoes to bulk up your egg product.  Toss in leftover veggies.  Top off with some grated cheese and you're all set!
Big Salad - It's fast, it's easy and it often requires no cooking!  You can pile up whatever leftover veggies you have and some leftover protein (or protein from the pantry) and your dinner is served.

Find some inspiration here.

 Macaroni and Cheese - Don't just use up the ends of your cheeses, use up veggies too!  Plenty of tasty combinations and the happy melty goodness helps if you happen to have anyone around who isn't exactly over the moon about using up the cauliflower.
Soup - Be creative!  Soup will often gladly accept whatever you have to offer, especially if you have some good stock on hand.  

Bread Salad - Whether using it as a main dish or a side dish, bread salad is a dream for taking care of leftovers.  Anything that uses up stale bread is a winner in my book. It's incredibly flexible, just add some veggies and make a complimentary dressing.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eggy Eviction

 Another fridge-forage-to-fantastic dinner is the frittata (or the tortilla, omelet, quiche, whatever your egg based pleasure.)  The one I made here was a minimal effort / maximum forgiveness model.  I started by rooting around for bits of things that needed to be used.  I came up with a corner of onion and some asparagus.
 There was also a very small chunk of pepper jack that didn't make the cut when I was making the odd lots macaroni and cheese.  I grabbed the cheddar while I was in there, because who doesn't like cheese? (That is not a sincere question.  I am sure there are cheese loathers out there, I just don't particularly want to associate with them.  So don't answer unless you have an interesting reasons for wanting to make me carry a grudge against someone. Then you can answer.)

And of course, I had an open package of bacon beckoning.  I don't think bacon knows how to do anything besides beckon.  It certainly doesn't retire to a corner of the fridge demurely waiting its turn.
Finally I collected some kitchen staples (eggs, potatoes, tomatoes) and got down to business.

Seriously, be free with the ingredients.
1 baking potato
6 eggs
1/2 C grated cheese
stuff to stick in it
I used, asparagus, onion, cherry tomatoes and bacon.  I've made it with crumbled sausage before, too which is super yummy.  Mushrooms are also tasty. 
olive oil
salt and pepper.

In a medium high pan, cook off any meat products.  Cook them thoroughly until done, set aside and then pour off any excess fat.  Then add your onion or garlic product. If you're using mushrooms or another veggie which can be sauteed in a pan, feel free to add it now too.  Use a smidge of oil and cook until the onions are translucent and whatever veggies you're using are mostly done.  (I roasted the tomatoes and asparagus in a toaster oven at 350 for about 20-25 minutes). 

Peel and slice a large baking potato.  I use a mandolin because I hate trying to make uniform slices.  Cover the bottom of the pan with potato slices as though you are making a pommes anna.  I layered this over the onion, but if you have a lot of chunky veggies you can pour all of it off into a bowl for now and then set down the potatoes.

Sprinkle the top of your potatoes liberally with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan and let cook for 12 minutes.  If your pan is too hot, turn it down, you do not want hard potatoes and if you put this over your onions, you don't want burnt onions.  While the potatoes are cooking, whisk your eggs together in a large bowl.  Right when the potatoes are finished, toss your veggies in with your eggs.  Then pour all of it over the potatoes.  Use a spatula to sort of mush it around so there's even coverage.  Then sprinkle on your meat.
Add the grated cheese evenly over the top and cover again.  Cook for 10 more minutes or until the eggs are set. Enjoy your delicious easy dinner and clean fridge!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big Salad

Big Salad is my new go-to meal for when I don't feel like cooking.  Luckily my husband has an almost pathological need to have a salad with dinner, so it's not much of a stretch to convince him we should have a salad for dinner.  For my part, well, I never know when scurvy is going to strike, so I have to stay on top of my vegetable consumption.  The best thing about Big Salad though, is that you can make it from whatever the heck you have on hand.  Sometimes we go buy something for Big Salad (like the beautiful piece of salmon shown above), but it works with all kinds of leftover protein.  If you made some Chinese Chicken, throw in some Asian ingredients.  Chicken with Lemon and Oregano sitting in your fridge?  Go Greek!

So here's our basic formula for Big Salad:

1) Pick a protein, leftover or fresh.
2) Decide on an incredibly loosely interpreted flavor theme.
3) Round up loose end vegetables and such, wash, chop, steam if necessary.
4) Make a homemade dressing.
5) Serve.

Easy right? Because you can often use leftover (or in some cases below, ready to serve) protein it takes hardly any time to make.  The vegetable base for the salad is incredibly forgiving, absorbing all manner of leftover vegetable bits that aren't enough to make a real side dish.  Just let what you have on hand guide your salad style and then use certain (usually pantry friendly) elements to tie it all together. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:
 Asian - we did a soy glaze on the salmon, or use steak, then use snap peas, asparagus, red cabbage and cashews which we lightly steamed, the dressing was soy and sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.
Greek - use leftover chicken (the above link or regular lemon chicken work perfectly!), use feta and kalamata olives.  Mix up a dressing with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped red onion and a bit of feta to help hold it together.
Nicoise - shrimp or tuna, hard boiled eggs, green beans, mix up a dressing of finely chopped kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil, a mashed anchovy (or a smidge of anchovy paste) and  lemon juice.
Vegetarian - chickpeas and hard boiled eggs add plenty of protein, add any other veggies you like.  I secretly like this with store bought French dressing, but don't tell Ryan that.
Mediterranean - use white beans and tuna as your protein; mix up some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and finely chopped garlic for your dressing.
Just Freakin' Yummy - add slivered almonds, craisins and a dressing of red wine vinegar, finely diced red onion, extra virgin olive oil and some crumbled up blue cheese.
Mexican - left over chicken (especially if it started as fajitas or in salsa), black beans, cheese (so many different ones will work), jalapenos (you've got a jar shoved in the back of your fridge right?), avocado and make your dressing from a vegetable oil, some lime juice and a titch of adobo sauce and a bit of sugar.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Conquer Your Fridge

Come on, you best get to it, before it conquers you!!

Despite usually having my fridge and freezer well in hand, they had gotten away from me a bit, with things lurking in dark corners and bits and ends of things accumulating in their foils and plastic wraps.

Evidently the whole using up cheeses mission proved highly motivating for me, because this whole week I'm going to giving you meal tips to help you take charge of the situation in your fridge.

Tip # 1 - Know What You've Got
The chicken speaks the truth.

On the left hand size of our notepad we keep a running list of all leftovers in the fridge along with the date they were put there.  This way you know what needs to get used up and there's less speculation about the relative sanity of ingesting something of questionable age.

Use StillTasty if you're unsure (oh come on, they have an app).  I'm not as conservative as they are, but I like to live on the edge.

On the left hand side is the grocery list. 

My husband generally maintains the list.  I'm the person who eats the last of something and doesn't tell.  At least one of us is a team player.

Keeping a similar list for your freezer will let you know what you have on hand so that you can plan to use it.  My chicken and veggie bits bags that I keep for stock had taken over about a third of the freezer so it was time to actually get my act together and you know, make the stock.  Now I have happy little quart containers ready to go for soup making.

Tip # 2 - Plan Your Meals

When you plan what you are making, you can make sure you use things up when they need to be used up.  You can also be more efficient in the kitchen!  I have a spreadsheet organized by protein (ground meat, sausage, chicken, vegetarian, seafood) where I list all my meals.  I just pick a starting point, see what ingredients are needed and then see if there's any way to use them up later.

Tip # 3 - Use up the Bits and Bobs

Have a few meal ideas at the ready that will help you use up all those small amounts of protein and vegetables that seem to nestle into the blind spots in your fridge. I'll be giving you a couple ideas later this week that will help you deal with the itty bitty bits, but I'm sure you already have some recipes that are flexible and use up all sorts of random food products.

Share your ideas for meals that help you clean out the fridge!  Tell us in the comments!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lenten Excess

Lent is supposed to be a time of austerity. I'm usually pretty big on doing without. Over the years, I've given up caffeine, diet drinks, shopping, sweets in all forms; really any number of bad vices, fun pastimes or delicious indulgences. This year I'm giving up sloth (no not this kind of sloth, the kind where you're really lazy and never exercise) which means I've sort of hit the double negative of going without.  If I do without doing nothing, I must be doing something, right?  

And a lucky thing that is too, because this macaroni and cheese has to be the most decadent meatless dish I've ever served up on a Lenten Friday.  It is so creamy and cheesy and rich and delicious, but it also uses up all the little bits of leftover cheese lurking in your cheese drawer.  And come on, how slothful can you be if you're efficient enough that use each morsel of food in you fridge, letting none go to waste?

Right.  It's a really good thing I'll be getting plenty of exercise.

Evidently Sara Moulton reads my mind, because I ended up watching this episode the day I planned this dinner.  Kismet I say.

1 lb pasta, I used elbows, but little shells are cute too
6 T butter
1 1/2 C milk
4 T flour
1 T Worcestershire sauce
4-5 drops hot sauce
1 T dijon mustard
plenty of cheese - I used monterey jack, cheddar and blue cheese (incidentally, this would be a great way to hide blue cheese if you have some but your family is not into it).  Sara suggested an 8-12 oz guideline.  I totally eyeballed it.

For optional topping:  1 T butter, 1/4 C panko breadcrumbs, olive oil, about 8 cherry tomatoes per person

Put the water for the pasta on to boil, when ready cook according to the directions on the package.  While the pasta is cooking, get the sauce ready.  In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat.  Mix in the flour to make a roux, cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring until the butter and flour are all mixed together.  Remove from heat and add the milk and whisk well to incorporate.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and mustard.  Return to the heat (now on low) and slowly add the cheese.  Hard cheese should be shredded, things like blue cheese or goat cheese you can crumble in.  Stir as you go.  You want the cheese to slowly melt into the the milk.  When it's all melted and the pasta is cooked and drained you can mix the sauce and the pasta.  At this point taste it and decide if it needs salt and pepper.  Mine didn't need salt because of the cheeses I used.  

The slow cooked cherry tomatoes are heaven and provide a sharp and sweet balance to the richness of the cheese.  I put them on a foil covered tray, tossed them in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and stuck them in a 300 F oven for about 40 minutes.  Delicious.

The panko breadcrumbs give a nice crunch.  Heat up the tablespoon of butter in a pan, toss in the breadcrumbs until golden and sprinkle over the top.


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