Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leftover Ideas for Chicken

Chicken is a popular main dish, and many people are curious about all the different ways we can re-invent it for enjoyable and financially-efficient purposes. I recommend making roast chicken one day, and eating that as is. The following days you can make new dishes from them as listed:

1) Chicken Salad
2) Chicken Sandwich
3) Chicken Soup
4) Chicken Dumplings
5) Chicken Fried Rice
6) Casseroles
7) Chili
8) Sliced Chicken Drizzled with Gravy
9) Chicken Curry
10) Chicken Pot Pie
11) Chicken Tacos
12) Chicken Quesadillas
13) Chicken Meatballs
14) Chicken Stock

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chicken with Bacon, Tomato, and Thyme

This is such an easy recipe. It's also visually aesthetic, so I really like the idea of that. The chicken isn't the most flavorful and moist like basted chicken, but I was surprised by its moisture content and outcome. It wasn't tough and the bacon grease gives it an addictive flavor, while the tomato keeps the chicken from drying out. It cooks quickly, requires minimal ingredients, and the flavor can easily be altered to your taste. As you can see in the photo, the chicken is lightly cooked. I thought I'd mention that. I was surprised and was unsure if it was cooked through, but it was fine. The first two photos are mine, and the last photo of the recipe I got from the Food Network website. This is a Low Carb and Lovin' It recipe. I thought I'd compare the photo to ensure that the color of the chicken is safe. I had this with my friend, and we both really enjoyed it. As always, I omitted the red onions because I think they're gross, but the original recipe did call for some. I also marinaded the chicken for a while, but the original recipe didn't call for that.

8 pieces of bacon, parcooked halfway (may use precooked)
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into halves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
Enough slices of Roma or another type of large sized tomato to top on each chicken breast
1 bunch fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To par-cook the bacon, lay slices on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes until half-cooked. Remove and reserve.

Coat the chicken with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. I let the chicken marinade for half an hour because the pieces were so small. (Normally, I would've marinaded for much longer). Wrap 2 pieces of par-cooked bacon strips criss-cross around each piece of chicken, forming an X-pattern in the center. Place a thick slice of Roma tomato over each chicken breast. Bake the chicken until it's completely cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I like potatoes, and I like trying new things. Fingerling potatoes were a new concept I wanted to try. I first came across them on the 30 Minute Meal show. I don't know what I was expecting. They aren't bad tasting, but I find them rather unmemorable. The only appeal about these potatoes are the small size which makes cooking time faster. If you're also tired of the same thing but prefer something familiar, this potato is a healthy balance. It was dry but not overly starchy in a way that makes you thirsty. I believe the cooking time had to be altered for this recipe, which is odd because many reviewers complained that the temperature and cooking time was too high. I actually found that I had to increase the roasting time. So I suggest a close observation and take it out when it looks ready. I waited until the skin looked slightly shriveled to ensure that it has thoroughly cooked through. I actually like the look because without its wrinkled image, it appears similar to its raw state. That's not as appetizing looking.

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes
6 cloves of garlic with skin-on
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Spread potatoes out on a cookie sheet. Scatter garlic over potatoes. Coat lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and season potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

For a different change of pace from the trendy sushi restaurants or American diners, try some down home fried chicken and waffles, some good Southern food. It's not quite soul food. Well, it is, but it's missing the collard greens, ham hocks, chitlins, but the fried chicken brings me to back to Oakland. In California, anyways, finding Southern cooking in a restaurant is rare...until I found this joint. The chicken is deep fried, golden, tender, flavorful, and very uncommercialized, restaurant-y food. Don't get me wrong. I love the chicken picatta, but sometimes I just prefer food that makes me feel like it was cooked out of someone's home, not a restaurant. The combination of chicken and waffles was coined by Roscoe's, and it became a huge hit. I fear as I write these words I'm about to lose credibility in the eyes of many Roscoe fans, but for me, it isn't the waffles. Although chicken and waffles is a novel concept that many, many people enjoy. I'm just a fan of the fried chicken. I'm so disgusted by KFC and Popeye's. It's nice to have something fresh. And the portions are gigantic, so it's a major bargain. The prices are reasonable as it is. I usually go for chicken thighs, two over easy eggs, and grits. There are all sorts of combos available. The service is efficient, too. It's the perfect place to go to for comfort food when you want something affordable and immediate. FYI: A restaurant like this is for the quality of the food, not visual presentation and other frivolous priorities that don't actually improve the flavor of the food but give it beauty. This restaurant is all about delivering flavor. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I wanted to make that clear. Sometimes, I prefer going to a place that offers visual aesthetics. At times like that, I pass up Roscoe's. The decor is plain and only what's necessary. I like that sometimes. We live in a materialistic society and desiring and demanding wants and confusing them with necessities. The simplicity of this restaurant can be grounding, and I feel like I'm protected from the money grubbing outside world.

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
830 N. Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 791-4890

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Purple Potatoes

One of my New Year's Resolution is to try new foods. I'm a curious and open person, but I realized that I don't try as many new things as I would like. And food is such a simple way to achieve my goals and satisfy my curiosity. I was surprised to learn that many of us conform to this bigoted belief that produce only comes in the standardized color we're usually exposed to at the supermarket. But tomatoes aren't just red. They come in vibrant yellows, oranges, greens, and pinks. Beets have a selection of the dark reds, deep purple hues, and sunny oranges. Well, potatoes are no exception. I was familiar with Russets, baby, red, and Idaho potatoes, but purple ones were a new concept for me. Since purple is my favorite color, I thought this would be a perfect experiment. The idea that potatoes have a nutty flavor also appealed to me. I followed a recipe from the Food Network. I believe it was the Roasted Peruvian Potatoes. I, unfortunately, don't have a picture of the recipe, but I do have this gorgeous picture of raw purple potatoes cut open. They look like gorgeous jewels. They remind me of an edible version of amethyst. So, it was settled. I picked up a bag at my local Farmer's Market. Here's the recipe I used:

Roasted Peruvian Potatoes

2 lbs. Peruvian purple potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A sprinkle of dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Cover them with water if you cut them ahead of time.

In another bowl, combine extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Thoroughly drain potatoes and add them to the oil mixture. Spread the potatoes on a foil lined cookie sheet, and roast for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

This recipe is easy to follow and worth trying. It wasn't a bad recipe, but I doubt it's the kind of flavor people jump up and down about. It does have a nutty flavor. But when I tasted it, it wasn't the kind of "nutty" flavor that I was thinking of. It has an indescribable flavor for me, but in Asian cuisine, you've probably tasted it before. The flavor is apparent but rather subtle. The flavor is unique for potatoes. I think it would be hard to pair with. I wouldn't recommend making it for a dinner party because it's not what I consider a "safe recipe." Maybe pair it with lean chicken? It's not heavy on the starchy texture like a lot of other potatoes. It's an unusual potato worth trying, but it's not very practical. I can't imagine too many different ways you can cook this.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Grocery List

Moroccan Beet Salad

1 lb. beets (5-6 beets)
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pickled Beets and Eggs

1 lb. beets (5-6 beets)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/8 pickling spice
6 large hardboiled eggs, peeled
2 cloves garlic
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Rhubarb Iced Tea

8 stalks rhubarb
1/3 cup sugar
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Lemon Squares

2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
4 tbsp flour
1/4 cup lemon juice

Spicy Refrigerator Dill Pickles (best reviewed)

12 3 to 4" long pickling cucumbers
1 3/4 cup vinegar
1 1/2 cup chopped dill weed
1/2 cup white sugar
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp pickling spice
1 1/2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh dill

Pickled Green Beans

2 lbs green beans
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 heads dill
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1/4 cup salt

Stewed Rhubarb

2 3/4 cup rhubarb
2/3 cup sugar

Rhubarb Raspberry Compote

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 lb. fresh rhubarb
9 ounces raspberries

Roast Chicken

2 (2 to 2 1/2 lbs) organic free-range chicken
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, halved
2 bunches fresh thyme
2 lbs. mixed mushrooms

Making Dill Pickles

8 lbs. cucumbers
4 cups white vinegar
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic
Fresh dill

14 Day Sweet Pickles

4 lbs pickling cucumbers
3/4 cup pickling salt
2 tsp celery seed
2 tbsp mixing pickling spice
5 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups vinegar

Seven Day Pickling Spice

7 lbs. medium sized cucumbers (about 3" long)
1 quart apple cider
8 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp mixed pickling spice

Quick Pickles

4 Kirby cucumbers
2 or 3 sprigs of tarragon
1 3/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt



Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chinese Herbal Soup

Chinese herbal soups have detoxifying properties. Cooking herbs over a long simmer of water releases those cleansing effects. You can buy the herbs separately and inexpensively at a Chinese shop, but I decided to pick the prepackaged pack up. These versions aren't as fresh, so be careful. Make sure that the colors are still fresh looking, not dull. I simply poured all of the herbs into a large pot of water and simmered it for four hours. I can't really describe the flavor. It isn't disgusting to me, although some would consider it to be. It certainly isn't so tasty that you want seconds. Every so often I like to do my body good with a soup like this.

Soft-Boiled Eggs, Blanched Asparagus, and Hollandaise Sauce

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I made this as a midnight "snack." I was craving something light and healthy, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly what I wanted. I knew I didn't want to become over-involved in a recipe, but I did want to work for it. My mind and appetite was a little scattered, hence the variety. Eggs are generally an easy ingredient to work with, light and filling at the same time. I always seem to have them on hand. They're easy to make, and yet I rarely take advantage of the opportunity. I wanted to try something new. I love runny yolks, so the idea of the soft-boiled eggs really appealed to me. Asparagus were used as dippers in a recipe I found online. I figured the timing was appropriate. I was curious to try the unfamiliar white variety in my fridge anyways. The hollandaise sauce just seemed to make sense. I think it was the popular asparagus and hollandaise combo that intrigued me. The Hollandaise Sauce recipe I followed was overly buttery and uses less yolks than other recipes. I personally don't recommend following the recipe I'll list. I'm listing it just for the fuck of it, not because I like the recipe. It was a disappointing first hollandaise sauce experience.

-"Softboiled" Eggs

For such a simple recipe, you may wonder why I'm practically offering a tutorial, but it's important. Once you know the rules, it's easy, but you must follow them if you want to achieve success. First lesson: "Softboiled eggs" aren't actually boiled. They're simmered for a minimum of three minutes. The temperature of the egg is crucial because it’s only simmered for such a brief amount of time. Eggs that have been refrigerated should be removed at least half an hour before you cook them because the eggs must be at room temperature. On the other hand, you can run the eggs under hot water from your sink for a few minutes and add an extra minute to your cooking time. It’s also preferable to use older eggs, as fresh eggs are difficult to peel. Be sure to use the right size pan. You don’t want the eggs clashing into one another and chipping away at its shells. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the eggs, plus an extra inch with a teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil. In the meantime, use a needle and prick the bottom of the shell. You have to do this or else the egg will crack under the pressure, but a small prick will allow steam to escape. Once the water reaches a gentle boil, careful lower the egg into the pan with a tablespoon. As the water reaches boiling point again, adjust the temperature to a simmer and begin timing. Large eggs should be cooked for four minutes for a runny yolk and six minutes for a slightly runny yolk. Medium sized eggs should reduce the cooking time by one minute, and extra large eggs should add a minute. Remove the eggs promptly, and run them under cold running or immerse them in a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking. Once the eggs slightly cool, chip the top end of the egg and expose the runny yolk. Use the asparagus sticks or sliced toast as a dipping stick. Such long instructions, but it's not so bad, right?

-White Asparagus-

I can't remember the details. The instructions came with the asparagus, something along the lines of blanch it for three to five minutes? Three minutes wasn't adequate. The texture was still crisp and raw tasting. I like a more cooked flavor. I drizzled it with some hollandaise sauce.

-Hollandaise Sauce-

1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp water
2 egg yolks
Salt and white pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Melt the butter, then skim the foam from the surface with a spoon. Let it cool until tepid. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water set on a low heat. Make sure the bottom of the bowl isn't in direct contact with the hot water. Place water and yolks with a pinch each of salt and white pepper in the bowl. Whisk the ingredients to a light and frothy mixture that holds the trail of the whisk, 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Curried Apple Couscous

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

Quite frankly, I'm not a fan of sweet flavors in main dishes, although I'm a die hard for sweets. This recipe was no exception. I only chose to make it because I came across an abundant amount of apples, and I needed to use them up. I figured this was a free opportunity to test out new recipes. After all, new experiences are good for the mind, and our taste preferences change over time. I found out that in this case, my taste hasn't changed, but it was worth the experience. The recipe isn't bad. It's just not a flavor I'm into. It is quite filling, though. So if you like the curried apple flavor, I recommend this.

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp curry powder
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1 cup couscous
1 3/4 cup water
1 tsp sea salt

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 3 tbsp of butter, curry powder, and a couple generous pinches of salt. Cook for a minute or until the spices are fragrant. This happens very quickly. Stir in the chopped apples and cook for about 3 minutes, enough time for the apples to soften a bit and absorb some of the curry. Scoop the apples from the pan, and set aside in a separate bowl.

In the same pan, again over medium-high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil, stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes and then use a fork to fluff up the couscous. Stir the apples back in. Season with more salt and curry powder to taste, if necessary.

The original recipe called for scallions and fresh mint. I hate scallions, so I omitted those. And I usually don't have mint on hand. The recipe is very filling and easy to make. Be really careful because the curry powder heats up quickly. If you're not careful, it'll burn. If your stove is on the hotter side, I actually recommend cooking on medium heat. This recipe is a great way to use up apples a little past its prime or the bland flavored versions. The curry powder enlivens the flavor of dull tasting apples and the water rehydrates it.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Asparagus, and Lemon

Isn't this photo beautiful? It's about time after presenting some rather visually deceptive images. I found this recipe from www.marthastewart.com, but at the moment, the recipe page is coming up blank. Fortunately, it's a popular favorite among many, so I managed to find the recipe online. From what I can recall, the recipe listed is exact to the original one I followed (more or less).

1 1/2 lb. small new potatoes, halved
3 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 whole cut up chicken (about 3 pounds)
1 lb asparagus
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
6 sprigs fresh thyme

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

2. Place potatoes and 1 1/2 tbsp butter in a large, shallow roasting pan; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until potatoes are golden, 20-25 minutes.

3. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until chicken begins to brown about 20-25 minutes.

4. Scatter asparagus, lemon, and thyme around chicken. Cut remaining 1 1/2 tbsp butter into small pieces and sprinkle on top. Roast until asparagus is tender and chicken is opaque throughout (and nicely browned), 5-15 minutes. (But I accidentally left mine in for 17 minutes. That's why it has that beautiful, crisp look. It was an advantageous accident). Serve chicken and vegetables drizzled with pan juices.

I was initially intimidated by the idea of roasting the potatoes by just dotting it with butter on top. I was concerned that the bottom would become scorched, but it was fine. I also used baby potatoes for mine. The asparagus had a nice roasty flavor to it. I included white asparagus in addition to the standard green ones. I was curious about how the white ones would taste. They're a softer, more tender flavor. They don't take as long to cook, but it can also have a crispier texture, too. But that's when it's blanched. I learned that green asparagus is most suitable for this recipe. The lemon was refreshing. I can't imagine that the thyme did much for the flavor other than aesthetics. I bought 3 lbs. worth of random chicken parts already cut up. I also began by roasting the chicken for only 20 minutes but found that another five minutes was necessary. The outside looked ready, but the inside was still pink, although still very yummy. I decided to cook it through for safety reasons, though. This is one of those favorites you'll make over and over without tiring of it. It provides not only scrumptious flavor but also visual allure, the color contrasts are striking. It's a great choice for potlucks.

Lemon-Scented Quinoa

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

Another photo that doesn't do the dish justice. Remember: Don't judge by aesthetics alone. This was one of the new foods I wanted to try, and I'm glad I did. Most of the other foods were worth the experience, but I didn't enjoy them nearly as much as I did quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH). It has a unique bite to it, very unusual. Maybe it's because I haven't tried enough foods, but I've never eaten anything quite like it. So, you have to eat it for yourself to determine whether you like it or not. I think it's one of those foods you either like or dislike. It has a pop to it when you chew it. It's light and a new twist to the standard grains. It's easy to make, affordable (not like standard grains but within most people's budgets), and a one-of-a-kind experience. It's crucial to use a superior quality extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe because a rancid flavor will ruin the entire recipe. Luckily, I didn't learn this from a mistake. I have a great extra-virgin olive oil that's light and sweet, very suitable for this recipe. It's a subtle flavor, but it occurred to me that a bad flavor will really be present in simple recipe like this. I use Marca Verde Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I heard that in a blind study it beat out a $40 or $60 bottle. This dish goes beautifully with Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon, and Asparagus, a recipe I found on www.marthastewart.com, but I can't seem to access to the recipe right now. The page appears blank. I hope it returns because that was an amazing dish.

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil of superior quality
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Wash quinoa in three changes of water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.

Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 tbsp salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, then set sieve over same pot above 1 inch of simmering water (water shouldn't touch the bottom of the sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel (I used a paper towel), then cover sieve with a lid. It's okay if the lid doesn't fit tightly. Steam over simmering water until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, about 5 minutes.

Transfer quinoa to a bowl and stir in oil, zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Primavera Orzo

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

Okay, so this photo doesn't look very appetizing. The colors are rather bland, but it's more flavorful than the image suggests. More importantly, it's such an easy recipe to make that it's worth mentioning. It's light, perfect for lazy days. I don't think I added enough zucchinis and carrots, which I think offers the most amount of flavor along with the curry powder. I also prefer omitting the peas because I think it neutralizes the carrots and zucchinis. This recipe originally came from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals, which I modified.

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small zucchinis, shredded
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp curry powder
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup orgo pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, zucchinis, and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes. Add curry and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Add orzo, and return to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta absorbs the liquid, about 10 minutes.

The recipe originally included two shallots, which I omitted because I hate the flavor. It's also only supposed to include one zucchini, chopped, but shredding it intensifies the flavor, so I doubled up. 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 cup of frozen peas is also included at the very end. But my modified recipe is the one I prefer. The photo I took is closest to the original recipe excluding the shallots and 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you follow my preferred recipe, it's much more appetizing looking and easier, not that the original isn't simple enough. The color contrasts are actually intense and vivid, a deep but bright orange, crisp greens, and a nutty color the orzo offers.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mediterranean-Style Vegetables

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I love the taste of roasted vegetables, and I'm usually satisfied with my favorite classic. But I thought I'd try something new, mostly because I saw a picture of this recipe and the glistening tomatoes tempted me. Roasting tomatoes can be a little tricky. It's a fine line between the slightly roasted flavor amplifying the juicy burst and "Cajun-style" burnt and dried out tomatoes. I decided to make this recipe, originally, because of the short cooking time, but I ended up extending it with success. The recipe was unhelpful, so I had to modify it. It stated to preheat your oven to the highest setting possible, which for my oven would definitely crisp and char the tomatoes into flames. So, I set the oven to 425 degrees F, which is the usual setting I use for roasting vegetables. I was supposed to roast for 25-30 minutes, which seemed logical because the tomatoes can't be in the oven as long as the other veggies, but I ended up having to leave them in there for an entire 45 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-roasted the tomatoes turned out. I naturally expected the zucchinis, carrots, and garlic to roast beautifully, but the tomatoes were a nice treat. I specifically cut the vegetables differently to change my routine and create a different aesthetics, which I recommend to everyone from time to time. Altering a favorite to expand your taste palette and introduce something new is always a good thing. Something as simple as using a different cutting techniques makes an impact.

2 zucchinis, cut into sticks but not very skinny
1 tomato, cut in chunks
A handful of baby tomatoes
5 garlic cloves with the skin on
Extra-virgin olive oil to coat

Roast in a 425 degrees F preheated oven for 45 minutes. Watch the tomatoes carefully and make sure they don't burn.

Roasted Beets

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

Being Asian, I wasn't exposed to beets as a child. It isn't my favorite vegetable, but it's super healthy and seasonal. So I try to take advantage of it when I can. I haven't had beets much, so I was unsure how to make them. But I love roasted vegetables, so I decided to start there.

Bunch of beets, washed and peeled
Few garlic cloves with the skin left on
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place beets in a large baking pan and toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic with the skins on. Roast for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuna Noodle Casserole

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I must admit that I didn't particularly like this recipe. I found the tuna to be dry and the flavor was bland and slightly tough. Perhaps it was the brand I used, but I was under the impression that Chicken Under the Sea is a favorable brand. Maybe I'm just not a fan of canned tuna. I used to be, but it has been a long time. And this was cooked in the oven. I still think this recipe is worth listing especially for tuna lovers. I wouldn't mind remaking this by substituting tuna with chicken or something like that. I can be a huge fan of casseroles, but I am new to them. So I'm not making an informed decision as I say this, but I think that with more exposure, this will probably not be on my top list. I'm mostly attracted to it because of its simplicity. Ingredients are commonly found in most kitchens. Since a lot of people find difficulty coming up with recipes, simple go-to dishes like these are ideal.

1 can of tuna, drained
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can peas
8 or 9 oz. of noodles
3/4 cup milk

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. In a casserole dish, mix in tuna, cream of mushroom, and milk. Add the noodles and carefully stir in the peas. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes.

As I typed out the instructions for this recipe, I started to remember the flavors more. Even through the photo, you can tell that the pasta looks a little dried out in some areas. Well, that was my mistake. I should have naturally gone for flatter noodles or, at the very least, stay away from choices that expand so much. In the future, if I use large pastas like that, I'll use less noodles, substitute with chicken, maybe add more soup, and introduce new ingredients such as broccoli and mushrooms. That sounds good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ritz Mint without the Mint

This simple but contrasting flavor makes it a different treat. If you prefer simplicity over the unnecessary complexities in a dish and you want no-bullshit, to the point food, try this. There are only two ingredients: Ritz crackers (yes crackers) and Wilton chocolate chips. You simply melt the chocolate in a double broiler or simmer water in a pot and place a heatproof bowl over it and melt the chocolate. Then coat the crackers in the chocolate. Let it sit and dry on parchment paper for 20 to 30 minutes. The saltiness of the cracker really comes out. My boyfriend didn't really like the flavor, but he enjoyed the contrast in flavors. I think it's great because it's a new twist to regular crackers, and the perfect ingredients to have on hand. It quickly transforms into a snack.

2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
1 (14 ounce) package of Wilton chocolate chips

Follow the directions above.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Roasted Vegetables

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I love roasted vegetables! They're so juicy, flavorful, vibrant in color, and easy to make. They're also one of my favorite comfort foods. As Alton Brown put it, "Dry heat intensifies flavor by driving off excess moisture, while concentrating and breaking down sugars into other chemicals that just happen to taste really, really good." I couldn't have said it better myself. Roasted vegetables just have an enhanced flavor quality than in its raw form or lightly cooked versions. They're also a great way to use up vegetables past its prime. I have a tendency to buy fresh produce and use them in the beginning for salads until my usage for them wanes. That's when roasted vegetables are in order. One of my guilty pleasures is to have roasted vegetables as a midnight "snack." While I don't recommend consuming them as frequently as I do, I highly recommend this recipe. It's a modified version from the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I have incorporated my choice of vegetables and leave the seasoning of salt and pepper until after it comes out of the oven.

Enough extra-virgin olive oil to generously coat vegetables but not enough that the vegetables are soaked
2-3 medium carrots, cut chunky or a bunch of baby carrots
3-5 Russet potatoes, cubed chunky
1-3 zucchinis, cut chunky but a little thinner than the carrots
5-8 garlic cloves with the skin left on

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Place cut vegetables in a large baking dish or cookie sheet. (Cut all the vegetables as evenly and similarly shaped to one another, so they can cook evenly). Drizzle a generous about of extra-virgin olive, so they're coated but not so much that the veggies are drenched. Toss well and add fresh sprigs of thyme or dried thyme will do, as well. Alternatively, you can add other dried herbs such as basil and oregano, a great combination for this dish. Spread the vegetables evenly and place in the middle rack for 40 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and vegetables. I highly recommend Maldon sea salt and freshly cracked black peppercorns.

While there are so many choices for salt varieties, when they're cooked, the chemical compound ends up the same. So, in order to enjoy the flavor of Maldon sea salt, I wait until the last minute so the flavor isn't chemically-altered. When the carrots are lightly browned, the flavor mellows and the texture becomes softer. The potatoes get starchy, so I lose interest in them out of all the vegetables first. Zucchinis are the juiciest and my favorite out of the three. I feel like I never add enough, but that has more to do with availability than anything. I always seem to have less zucchinis on hand than say potatoes.

This dish is so good, though. It even tastes good cold, so feel free to make a large batch and enjoy the next day. I like making these for my friends when they come over because some of them are inconsiderate and show up unexpected and, more times than not, much, much later than agreed upon. I selected these vegetables as they're the most common in my kitchen, as I imagine it is for many others. It's an excellent side dish for virtually any American meal. I certainly wouldn't recommend it for a traditional Japanese meal with rice, natto, sashimi slices, and miso soup. But served as a dish for pasta, grilled chicken, roast chicken, or any kind of chicken is well-complimented.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Poached Eggs with Chunky Tomato Sauce

My first time trying to poach eggs were completely unsuccessful. I read all about how the egg whites spiral away, and I guess I anticipated that havoc. After reading several criticisms about the flaws in poaching eggs, I came across a full-proof method. But that'll be for another post. Since then, I've managed to successful poach eggs. So, although, I no longer have the same concerns, I believe that anyone struggling to make poached eggs will find this recipe surprisingly achievable. Please do not hesitate to make this recipe because you can't make poached eggs. You'll never learn without practice, and this recipe is, in fact, most ideal for candidates struggling with poached eggs. It's a way to enjoy eggs for people who can't otherwise do so.

I love how few ingredients are required and how all of them are usually available in any well-stocked refrigerators and pantries. Because of how common the ingredients are and how simple it is to make, I think everyone, including people who don't cook, should have this recipe on hand. It's also ideal for light meals. I find it pointless to spend more time in the kitchen slaving away when you want a light meal. I have a tendency to list the benefits of a recipe, but this one in particular has abundant reasons. It's ideal for health-conscious individuals and a preferable recipe to go to for moms who cook for their large families.

This seemingly simple recipe comes with many advantageous factors. The heart health benefits is the most prevalent. Many people are concerned about eating eggs because of the cholesterol present. But there's a difference between good and bad cholesterol. Eggs contain HDL (good cholesterol), but some new studies suggest that eating three or more eggs a day produces both HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). That's a little troublesome but worry not!

Tomatoes generously contain a phytochemical called lycopene, responsible for reversing oxidative stress that's suspected in cancer and heart disease fighting results. Interesting enough and conveniently, might I add, lycopene are more effectively absorbed into the body when it's cooked through, as the raw form of the nutrient is too large to be sufficiently absorbed. Are you starting to see the benefits? Simple recipe with heart-health benefits, a rare combination, as fast foods have become our society's source of simple meals but for a high price, our health. I hate the idea of sacrificing our health for a simple meal. I usually don't cook when I'm not feeling very well, so those are times when I should be eating healthier than normal. With this recipe, I can. This is also a favorable recipe for college students or the financially-challenged. It's also ideal recipe for beginners.

1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
4 slices of bread
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional
Fresh or dried herbs to add zest to the tomatoes (I recommend basil and oregano)

Put tomatoes in a blender or food processor until it's chopped slightly chunky. You could also transfer the tomatoes and juices into a large bowl and coarse chop them with kitchen shears. In a small skillet, heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and juices into the skillet. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Gently crack eggs into the tomato mixture and, cover, cook for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, uncover, and let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Place each egg over toast. Spoon over sauce, garnish with cheese, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

I actually found that following this recipe made the yolk much harder than I prefer. Although I think that suits the tomato flavor. For a more runny yolk, I recommend cook the eggs for 3 minutes and letting it sit for about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop

The intrinsic beauty that can enhance a truly pleasurable dessert experience has not gone lost at this long-time sweet shop in Little Tokyo. Rather than the overdone American candy in their tacky wraps or boringly common cookies and desserts that make us reminisce of the predictable flavors, these Japanese treats are a beautiful and refreshing twist to the ordinary. The usage of bright and vibrant but soft colors put you in a whimsical mood. I grew up eating mochi, but I didn't appreciate its aesthetics until later in life. For one thing, they're weren't as lovely as these, but even people who are weirded out by new things become curious and entranced by its simplicity and attraction. Something about how it's presentation is undeniably appealing that people gravitate towards it.

Fugetsu-Do's signature desserts are mochi. They're Japanese sweet sticky rice cakes, chewy and decadent. They're soft and often times filled with sweetened beans, also known as adzuki beans. People who don't like tapioca pearls because of their soft texture may not appreciate mochi, but they're so beautiful. I think they're such a great treat especially to give as gifts. It's beautiful, affordable, and an ideal gift for someone you don't know very well and prefer not to spend a lot of money on who's curious and open to new things. It's also a great non-committal gift, so giving it to someone you just meant is a thoughtful and considerate gesture. On the other hand, it's also appropriate for a friend who has everything. This isn't high school anymore. It's not about how much money is spent. It's about what you can afford, what you can offer, and being a gracious gift receiver. I love grabbing these before meeting up with a group of friends I haven't seen in a while. These are also great "I'm thinking of you," or "feel better" gifts. The store also carries a generous selection of authentic packaged Japanese candies. They're not the run-of-the-mill Pocky sticks found at your local Von's or Ralphs. Then again, you can probably find quite a bit of these candies at an Asian grocery store. Nonetheless, the selection is suitable for this kind of shop and abundant. I highly recommend anyone in the area to check this store out. You can choose between a six, eight, ten, or twelve pack selection of mochi. You pick the flavors, and they're beautifully packaged and wrapped, free gift of charge. Stop by a tea shop, pick up some green tea, invite some friends other, present the treats, and you now have an affordable but unique tea time or late night snacks.

315 E. First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 625-8585
www.fugetsu-do.com

Friday, February 29, 2008

Generous Unload of Groceries

I went to my friend's place after she successfully received an undamaged computer screen as replacement for a defective one after an unacceptably extensive amount of time. A detailed review of her experience and the stores involved will be posted on my Great Finds and Not So Great Finds blog. Returning to my point, my friend's mother gave me an overly generous portion of groceries. It worked out great for both of us. After I asked her for the recipe of a delicious shrimp and melon dish, she offered me other foods that she thought I'd like and foods her family didn't normally touch. She was relieved and grateful that someone was interested in the food, knowing that it will no longer meet its uneaten, decaying fate. And I'm ecstatic by the amount of money I've saved and abundant food. She was selective in what she gave me to ensure that it didn't take anything away from her family, so it worked out well for both of us. Steamed pork buns, edamame beans, Chinese candy, Monterey Jack cheese, and a sweet, dessert ingredient used in scrambled eggs are my favorites.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables

I bought a slow cooker with the belief that it'll make cooking much easier. I consider myself a neglectful cook. I prefer oven cooking because it allows me to do other things while the food is being cooked, whereas stovetop cooking requires my full, undivided attention. I like to be productive with my time and do as many things as I can. Because I don't have enough counter space, my slow cooker is tucked away. And considering how the preparation for the slow cooker (slicing and dicing) is similar to oven cooking, I don't use my slow cooker as often as I had originally anticipated. I expected to do a few days worth of slicing and dicing and put everything together early into the day, so the food would be ready for me when I come home. Or turn it on before going to bed and waking up to a nice home cooked meal. I never realized that in the morning, I don't make time to use the slow cooker, no matter how much time is available to me. At night, I have different taste preferences, so I make something else. I'm most interested in using my slow cooker in the afternoon, but I end up staying awake until it finishes cooking, throwing my sleep pattern off. After neglecting my slow cooker for some time, my boyfriend expressed an interest to use it. So I went online to search for a recipe.

I came across some promising choices but chose the Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables. I got this recipe from the Food Network, but it was altered. I omitted onions, substituted red potatoes with Russets, couldn't get my hands on rhutabaga, and used baby carrots instead, according to what looked right, not what the recipe specified. The recipe didn't suggest or instruct adding water, but my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea. He suspected that without the water, the meat would dry out. But, more importantly, he thought that the recipe would be unsuccessful, and he felt uncomfortable by the idea of having something cook over a long period of time without any liquid. I imagine that's why the tomato sauce, a liquid form, was present, but he didn't think that would be adequate. He was open to following the recipe, but I wanted to try his method. What he said made sense, and at worst, the recipe would've been watered down, but everything would have stayed moist. You can always thicken something up, but trying to rehydrate a dry roast is more infeasible. I'm willing to correct the recipe, but I didn't want to risk coming home to a failed one.

It was easy to make, maintenance free, and flavorful. The meat just easily peeled apart. It was moist and tender. The vegetables were soft and transformed into a more delicate flavor. While I'm not put off by tomato sauce, I'm not the biggest fan, either. I find the flavor to be bland and yet dominant, at times. I love sweets, but I usually prefer sweet flavors to not be present in meat dishes. I was pleasantly surprised that the tomato sauce was soft in flavor and the brown sugar didn't leave any residual sweet flavors.

Slow Cooker Beef with Root Vegetables

3 Russet potatoes, chopped
A quarter bag of baby carrots
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 3-lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper to taste
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Arrange potatoes, carrots, and turnips in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season beef all over with salt and black pepper. Place roast on top of vegetables. Whisk together tomato sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, mustard powder, and garlic powder. Pour mixture over beef. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours or or on high for 8 hours. I cooked it on 8 hours, but I kept it on warm until the next day. That's why the meat appears a little dry, but it was actually quite tender.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Daisy Mint

Good food, good prices, good service, and convenient locations are what every starving college student seeks. By Pasadena City College, a semi-new restaurant called Daisy Mint delivers just that. It's not a 5-star restaurant, but the food is more than just edible. It's not the kind of food you stay open-minded about because you're so broke, and when you consider the alternatives...it's not so bad. This place is actually pretty decent. They offer an eclectic mix of Asian cuisine, primarily focused on Thai style in an Americanized sort of way. That's actually a good thing because I think it meets the demands of the demographic.

My favorite and standard dish here is the Panang curry. It's a Thai-style curry with pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, and my choice of meat: pork served with a choice of white or brown rice. This generously portioned dish is served for a measly $7.50 and can be stretched into two meals. As you can see in the photo, the serving platter the curry comes in is a really deep and wide dish. Measure the size of the platter to the paper placemat. I rarely come across such a generous portion, even when it's twice the price of what Daisy Mint offers. The third photo is a cooked salmon dish in a creamy cilantro sauce with a serving of brown rice and a salad. I believe it was worth $8.50. That's a lot more costly than what most college students can afford, but as far as seafood dishes go, this is a good price for the amount.

Plus, it's about three blocks away from PCC (Pasadena City College). The service is efficient, the food arrives quickly, customers aren't rushed out, and the environment is ideal for studying or just hanging out with your friends. It's quiet enough to study, but it's not dead quiet, either. It's a very comfortable ambiance. The decor is quietly eclectic with frames from the vintage era occupying the wall.

But MY ABSOLUTE favorite about this restaurant is their listening skills. It's a top priority for them to be well-informed, conscientious of the menu, and make sure to exclude specific ingredients customers request. Not only that but the menu has a courtesy note reminding customers to let their servers know of any food allergies such as onions. I can't tell you how ecstatic that makes me because I HATE ONIONS with a passion. Too many times I've specifically requested no onions on a dish, and it was plastered with it. So, it was a refreshing treat to see servers competently take my order and find that the chef also followed those instructions. You wouldn't think that it's a difficult challenge to request no onions, but I eat out a lot. And, sadly, quite a bit of restaurants fail to get my order right. I'm not allergic to onions, but, as a customer, I feel that I have a right to get what I ordered. I don't enjoy being the customer who tries to get my order corrected from the same people who made the mistake in the first place, waiting on an empty stomach, in hopes that they'll get it right this time. I can't express enough how much I hate onions. I'm allergic to seafood, and I develop rashes. I used to be dangerously allergic to chocolate with symptoms characterized by dizziness, excruciating headaches, and hives. Yet, I've always tolerated seafood and chocolate much better than onions. I don't like being tempted to claim that I'm allergic just to ensure that I don't get onions in my food. Half the time my deceit and compromised karma was for nothing. So, I'm proud to say that this restaurant has become a staple for me. Check it out for yourself! If you don't like it, you haven't spent too much money. But it's definitely worth checking out.

1218 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106

UPDATE: I want to be objective and open with my reviews. I've ordered the Panang curry several times already, and, for the most part, I'm satisfied with the results. Recently, though, I've found some of the pumpkin to be undercooked. It was still edible, but I did want to warn others. I did find the salmon a little undercooked. The color inside was a different shade from the outside. It still tasted delicious, and the quality of the salmon wasn't that bad. Personally, I prefer raw salmon, so I liked the dish better because it was slightly undercooked. But I did want people to be aware of that. After all, the salmon is supposed to be cooked. FYI: The creamy cilantro dish contains onions.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

My friend wanted me to make onigiri for her, so I decided to practice. Onigiri is Japanese rice balls. You mix rice with furikake (Japanese rice seasoning), cooked salmon, or whatever you feel like. You mix the ingredients together and shape them into triangles. So, why they're called balls, which are round is a mystery for me, too. I'm not a fan of cooked salmon, so I used what's nothing more than "fancy furikake." It's a marketing gimmick. It's packaged differently, and there's a picture of onigiri on the cover. I purchased it because I like the flavor, and I couldn't find that flavor for cheaper. This one is umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) flavored.

4 cups of freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (I recommend Kokuho Rose brand)
Filling of choice such as bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce, flaked, cooked, salted salmon, chopped up tsukemono (pickles), or my personal favorite: furikake

Wet your hands with cold water so that the rice won't stick to you. Sprinkle adequate amount of filling over rice and mix in with your hands. Taste test it to make sure that there's enough flavor. Add more, if necessary. Then, take enough rice into your hands to form the triangular shape shown on the photo. Use your thumb and insert it into the bottom of the triangle. Add 1 teaspoon or so of seasoning inside and cover it up, again. (This is a recommendation I chose to ignore because the amount of seasoning you add varies on the intensity of the flavor. I found that adding 1 teaspoon was too salty. I also felt that the flavor of the furikake was adequate without adding a little extra). Continue following the same steps until all of the rice is used up. I made little balls with the remainder rice.

NOTE: There were other instructions I selectively ignored. It's suggested that you lightly salt your hands after wetting them to keep the rice from sticking. I felt uncomfortable doing that because I feel that the water keeps the rice from sticking well enough. Plus, I don't know exactly how much salt to add on my hands. I've had success in the past, but I've also had success making onigiri without using salt. I don't like the idea of using a method that doesn't work sufficiently enough for my standards that can ruin the entire recipe. Overly salty onigiri is no treat. And there's no recovering from that. I did add some filling inside some of the onigiri (the part of the instruction about inserting your thumb into the bottom of the triangle). I found the flavor too intense, so I skipped that step for the rest of them. I just don't like tasting the seasoning in one center but not everywhere else. The suggestion probably works better for salmon or another type of filling that isn't as salty. I've heard that the only way to make onigiri is with hot rice, but I've also heard the contrary. I personally prefer making onigiri with warm or cool but still soft rice. Trying to make onigiri with hot rice makes mixing in the ingredients properly a challenge. I don't like my hands burning especially if it makes me feel like I'm doing an inadequate job. Sushi uses cold rice. I don't see how this would be any different. As long as the rice is still sticky and soft, I think it's fine. If you want to eat it warm, I think it's great to wrap nori (seaweed) around the rice. But I like eating it cold because I find it refreshing. Plus, I think it looks nicer without the odd looking nori around it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poached Eggs with Steamed Broccoli and Nippy Carrots

DISCLAIMER: When I categorize dishes "Vegetarian", I standardize it on the absence of poultry and meat such as chicken, duck, turkey, beef, or pork. I don't consider ingredients such as eggs which come from poultry or seafood vegetarian because I know many vegetarians who eat these ingredients without complaint.

I'm a little low on groceries. It's been pouring unpredictable, and I haven't had a chance to stop by the bank. I'm out of poultry, meat, milk, and most vegetables and fruits. So, basically every essential staple. I barely just picked up butter. I have miscellaneous spices and herbs (basil, BBQ grill seasoning, cardamom, chili powder, cumin, ground ginger, lemon pepper, mustard powder, whole nutmeg, extra-virgin olive oil, etc.), various condiments and pantry staples such as fish sauce, Maggi seasoning, a variety of vinegar, wasabi, baking soda, baking powder, all purpose flour, vanilla extract, sugar, salt, pepper, etc. I have eggs, butter, an Asian pear, a bag of baby carrots, Hot Pockets, pot stickers, instant noodles, frozen broccolis, and only one batch worth of rice. I can pretty much only make instant noodles, eggs, glazed carrots, roasted carrots, pan-fried carrots, other types of carrots, pancakes, basic yellow cake, steamed carrots and broccolis. My choices are a little limited right now. For dinner tonight, I managed to enjoy Poached Eggs with Steamed Broccoli, Nippy Carrots, and a bowl of rice, in spite of the paucity of ingredients. The eggs were poached in the most basic way, nothing special about the broccolis, either, nor the rice, but I followed a recipe for the Nippy Carrots. It came from my friend's cookbook, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.

Poached Eggs

2 eggs
Water
A Splash of vinegar
Fill a sauté pan with an adequate amount of water (3 inches worth) and a dash of vinegar. Crack the eggs into a bowl beforehand. Bring the water to a simmer and add eggs into the water one at a time. Poach until the whites are no longer translucent. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly.

NOTE: The vinegar is added to keep the egg shape in place. I was surprised by how easy it was. I vaguely remember my first time being unsuccessful, but I'm not sure how accurate my memory is. The image I have in mind reminds me of something I saw in a video. In order to prevent the egg whites from separating and swirling into a big mess, I read that a splash of vinegar helps and gently using a fork in a circular motion to hold it in place. For people who have continually failed to poach eggs in the traditional way, here's another method I've tried with success: Crack an egg into a bowl lined with plastic wrap. Securely tie it in place, and follow the original recipe but omit the vinegar. Once it's done, simply unwrap the plastic and enjoy!

Steamed Broccolis

I simply followed the instructions in the back of the bag.

Nippy Carrots

1 lb. medium carrots
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tbsp mixed pickling spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp pepper

1. Cut carrots diagonally into thin slices. In 12-inch skillet over medium heat, in hot oil, cook garlic. Add carrots and vinegar. Loosely tie pickling spice in a square cheesecloth; add to carrots with salt, dry mustard, and pepper.

2. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes until carrots are crunchy and crisp; discard spice bag. Pour mixture into shallow dish. Cover and refrigerate, tossing occasionally.

I used one pound worth of baby carrots. The recipe also called for chopped onions and onion slices for garnish, but I DESPISE ONIONS!!! So, I left them out. I didn't dislike this recipe, but I wasn't that impressed. It tastes like a weaker, inferior version of pickles. I wouldn't mind eating it, again, and the recipe is easy to follow, but it is what it is.

Promo Code

Vons.com is currently having a special promotion. During your checkout, use this promo code: 2STOCKUP to take advantage of the free delivery offer that expires on March 7, 2008. There are cheaper alternatives to Vons.com, but I like having www.vons.com around. Sometimes, when the weather is unpredictably raining heavily, I prefer not to go outside. When that's the case, I don't really have the means to travel to the best bargains. Usually the delivery fee is $7.95 or $9.95 depending on the time slot you select. But if I'm not paying for the delivery fee, and I don't have the means to go out, this is actually an ideal choice. You have to buy a minimum of $50 orders. Right now, Chunky soups are having a 10 for $10 special. Marie Callender's frozen foods are also going for $3.00 each. Frozen foods are grossly overpriced, but I like having them around for emergency situations. I have back and knee problems, so it's a nice choice to have around, rather than costly takeouts.

Free Delivery

Promotion Code: 2STOCKUP

Expiration Date: 3-07-08

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Italian Candy

I have such a sweet tooth. In fact, I even have aspirations about travelling around the world and sampling candies and fruits from different cultures. I'm not sure how authentic these candies are in the Italian culture, but I came across these treats at a corner sandwich shop run by an Italian couple. They're called Gelee's. What a simple and yet eye catching way to package goodies. I've seen on the Martha Stewart show similar packaging ideas, and they've always appealed to me, but I come from a generation that doesn't prioritize the presentation. I want to make an effort to change that, but I've never really made the time to. I rarely gift people with edible products. And, personally, I imagine supermarket candies packaged this way to be tacky. So, what's the point? Regardless of my inactive participation, I can appreciate thoughtfully displayed presentations. What a great idea to sell products like this. The wrapping itself makes it enticing, the colors are vibrant, it was more than affordable, and such a fun and rare treat for people like me. I consider these candies universally friendly. I hardly feel that you need an acquired taste. The rose-flavored candy was a new and exciting experience for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

GENKAI





Doesn't the sushi look scrumptious? It's beautiful art. It's exquisite food. It's a fantastic experience. What exactly am I going on about? Sushi at Genkai Restaurant. Here's the dialogue:

Someone says, "I want to eat sushi."

My response, "Oh, I know the best sushi place. PRIVATE RESERVE BEACH!!!"

Almost everyone has vehemently argued to have eaten at THE BEST sushi place ever, so what makes my claims any different? PRIVATE RESERVE BEACH! Sushi is seafood fished out from the sea. The better quality the seafood is, the superior the sushi is. The higher grade fish and shellfish are found in the freshest of waters. While many people, unknowingly, ignorantly go on about their favorite sushi restaurant being the very best, the majority of people don't have the slightest clue exactly where their food is coming from.

I, on the other hand, was properly educated by my friend who studies marine biology in Dana Point, CA, where Genkai is located. Dana Point is a small city that stretches 6.5 miles, home to a very well preserved beach. This small community prides itself on water life, nature preservation, and an appreciation for the charming and calm life living so close to the beach can offer. As a result, their beach is privately reserved and regularly monitored.

As you enter into this small town, you're immediately immersed by the salty air. The beautifully conserved beach is stretched out, and there's a magnificent view from virtually any of the major roads. The water is a glistening blue reflected off the sun. Even at night, the water's translucent. You often see still birds in the water waiting for just the right time to strike prey of sea urchins. Yes, you can see the dark, purple spikes of sea urchins. To be witness to such clarity near the Los Angeles area was a welcome shock to my system. The seashore is covered with crabs and other shellfish. There are guards who make sure that no one leaves the beaches with any shellfish, seashells, or anything else that belongs to the beach. With this kind of practice, it's no surprise that it's home to such fresh sushi.

Genkai, the hottest sushi place in town, employs the most prominent chefs from Japan who's creativities and skills are more than passable or great. They're exceptional. Each and every chef possesses an indispensable talent that's unique to themselves. Everything is prepared with the utmost care of excellence and respect. Everything served is fresh. By fresh, I mean, it's no longer than ten hours old. If the quality of the fish or shellfish isn't up their scrupulous standards, it isn't even available to the customers. The chefs work fastidiously to prepare imaginative and innovative dishes. To maintain this environment of artistic aspirations, Genkai doesn't carry a menu. The chefs surprise and impress you with whatever visions they bring to life. If, for whatever reason, you're not satisfied with your dish, you're under no obligation to pay for it. Although, I assure you that that'll never happen.

Some of you may find this operation to be restrictive, but it's quite the opposite. You can also guide your chef by telling him what kinds of ingredients you'd like. As a control freak, I practice that frequently. My favorite and regular chef is Tiger. He's friendly, diligent, and goes out of his way to please his customers. When I was bored, he made a puppet show for me with shrimp. Talk about customer satisfaction. Partly because my expectations are exceedingly high and mostly because I was curious to see what Tiger could concoct with such obscure ingredients, I demanded a dish with at least three types of sashimi, garlic, cream sauce, and fruit. And halfway through, I wanted him to use the fire torch. He presented a collection of sushi with three types of sashimi, cream sauce, topped it with slices of mangoes that were lightly torched (just enough so the juices were leaking), drizzled with cream sauce and garnished with roasted garlic. When I devastated that there was no sea urchin, he apologized with a redeeming dish. The tuna was shaped like a sleigh and stuffed with lobster and cream sauce surrounded by caviar. And, as beautiful as it was, just to paint a picture, I would consider that his mediocre performance. It was a lot simpler than his other creations. This was when he wasn't my chef, and he took on the burden of servicing me. And I'm a handful.

My friends and I have this tradition. We have to order the sashimi roll first. Normally, I'm unimpressed by sashimi. It's so average. What's so special about tuna and salmon, anyways? But the sashimi rolls here melt in your mouth and are the size of your palms. Each chef makes them differently, but it was served to me like flower petals before. It was overlapped in contrasting colors of the tuna and salmon and wrapped with soy wrap. Their sashimi rolls are always wrapped in soy wraps, which are white. They seem to dissolve in your mouth more pleasantly than the traditional black seaweed, and it's a lot more visually aesthetic. Some of my favorites are the sashimi rolls, sushi nachos, sushi burritos, monkey balls, and virtually every special that was ever made for me.

I'm never disappointed with the results. Their concepts are inventive and inspiring. As mesmerized as you are by the visual performance, you'll have very little restraint after you have a taste. As tempting as it is to say, "It's too beautiful to eat." That's far from the truth. It's beautiful, and it's a little tragic that it'll be gone, but to eat it is to respect it.

The first photo (above) is of the sashimi roll. Isn't it gorgeous? Sometimes, it's accompanied by cucumbers that are hulled out into tiny bowls with seaweed salad. Other times, it's layered like staircases or resemble flowers. No matter the presentation, the flavor dimensions always deliver. The response I always hear: The sashimi just melts in your mouth. I can't even remember what the second dish was exactly. I think those were a special. The third photo is of the Screaming Orgasm.

I’m sad to inform that it wasn’t very orgasmic or scream worthy. It didn’t hold the standards my friends and I were expecting, considering its name’s sake. It wasn’t an unpalatable dish. It just didn’t meet our standards. Truthfully speaking, titles, aside, it wasn’t the most memorable dish, and it was still a melt-in-your mouth experience. Monkey balls, on the other hand, were consumed so quickly that the camera never had a chance. It was a sushi dish served inside of button mushrooms. It looked gorgeous, tasted even better, but I can’t remember for the life of me what was inside of them.

The man in the picture is my chef, Tiger. Buy him a few rounds of drinks, and his inhibitions slowly dissolve. Not that he had much to begin with, but his creativity peaks even higher. Buy him a few more rounds, and he starts to forget exactly how many dishes you've ordered, and you end up with a massive discount. An estimated $300 bill totaled $90 between three people. I speak so highly of Genkai and Tiger that when I jotted down my friend's mother's model number for her hot pot (the brand being Tiger), my friend thought I tracked Tiger, the chef, down and got my hands on his employee ID number. Even with the knowledge that I was interested in the hot pot, she thought employee ID number. My boyfriend came to the same assumption. I'm just that obsessed.

Are you thinking it's true good to be true? Well, it is. Unfortunately, Genkai is now under new ownership, so the quality of the sushi has declined. It's still a lot tastier than other sushi restaurants. So, if you live in Orange County, I recommend checking the place out. Some of you will be pleased to hear that a menu exists now. As for me, I live in LA County. So the drive is too far. I just haven't gotten around to post this up . . .until it was too late. Because of this unfortunate turn of events, my search for the BEST sushi place continues. The next time someone claims to have eaten at the best sushi place, evaluate the location and where the seafood was feasibly obtained e.g., nearby lakes or oceans.

Foods I Want to Try and Foods I Want to Make

Foods I Want to Try

1. Cucumber Lemon
2. White Balsamic Vinegar
3. Frisée
4. Watermelon Radish
5. Purple Potatoes
6. Palestine Sweet Lime
7. Blowfish
8. Goat Cheese
9. Fennel
10. Quinoa
11. Japanese Sea Salt with Matcha
12. Haleakala Red Sea Salt
13. Fingerling Potatoes
14. Farm Fresh Milk
15. Champagne Vinegar
16. Homemade Mayonnaise
17. Freshly Shaved Truffles
18. Star Fruit
19. Miracle Fruit
20. Black Sapote also known as black persimmon
21. Mangosteen
22. Fresh Tamarind
23. Breadfruit
24. Umeboshi Vinegar
25. Red Rice
26. Hempseeds
27. Goji Berries
28. Green Peppercorn
29. Pink Peppercorn
30. Dulse
31. Sherry Vinegar
32. Guava
33.
34.

Foods I Want to Make

1. Fried Chicken
2. Chicken Picatta
3. Smoked Salmon
4. Chocolate Chip Cookies
5. Kimchi Successful kimchi
5. Beef Jerky
6. Pickled Shrimp
7. Pickled Papayas
8. Chili con Carne
9. Pot Roast
10. Pickled Okra
11. Pickled Garlic
12. Preserved Meyer Lemons
13. Classic Quick Sticks
14. Homemade Pasta
15. Sticky Rice
16. Red Rice
17. Chicken Stock
18. Pickled Beets
19. Kimchi Jigae
20. Pickled Cucumbers
21. Strawberry Jam
22.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Greek Garlic Chicken

This recipe makes delicious, flavorful chicken. I've made this for a number of pot lucks with success. It can be made ahead of time without worrying about the flavor altering. It doesn't take long to make it, and the results are worthwhile. I usually prefer to marinade my poultry or meat overnight, but the concentrated amounts of garlic make it unnecessary for this recipe. The ingredients are easy to find. My only criticism is that the garlic odor becomes intense during the cooking process. I wait for the chicken to be done, open a window, and then I go for a 30 minute walk. By the time I return, the offensive odor has dissipated, and it's left with an appetizing smell. Because of this, I wouldn't recommend leaving this recipe to the last minute when friends are coming over. Give the space time to air out. Other than that, it tastes amazing. The chicken isn't dry, and the garlic flavor isn't overwhelming. It mellows and marinades the chicken beautifully. I believe this is a Food Network recipe, but I can't remember who made it exactly.

8 chicken legs
2/3 cup minced garlic (about 3 heads)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp pepper
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Parsley sprigs

1. Rinse chicken, pat dry, and discard fat. Put legs in a rimmed 12 x 17" pan.

2. In a bowl, mix minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, pepper, and salt. Smear garlic mixture evenly over chicken, then arrange legs, cut side down, in a single layer.

3. Bake in a 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven until skin is well-browned, about 1 1/2 (1 1/4 hour in a convection oven). After 45 minutes, baste chicken with pan juice every 10-15 minutes.

4. Transfer chicken to a warm platter. Skim and discard fat from drippings. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to pan, stir to loosen browned bits, and pour sauce into bowl.

5. Scatter chopped parsley over chicken; garnish with parsley sprigs. Add sauce to taste.

TIP: Try to mince the garlic as precisely as possible. Larger chunks will burn quickly especially if you have an unusually strong oven, which I've had in the past. Even then, basting it will prevent most garlic burns. If you find some garlic crisps, simply smear them off with a knife. I was surprised to find that the entire recipe wasn't ruined.

NOTE: I actually don't use a roasting pan, so I never had the luxury to eat this chicken with the sauce. It still tastes unbelievably delicious, though. I imagine following the recipe completely will be even better. I just seem to fail at making gravy, so I opted against making the sauce.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joe's Delicious Tomatoes


My friend, Joe, surprised me with these homegrown, plump, fresh tomatoes. They're these gorgeous Heirloom tomatoes that are oversized and super juicy. I simply cut chunky wedges and seasoned them with Maldon Sea Salt. They're the perfect healthy treat and not just because they're tomatoes, but they're also organically grown. Tomatoes found at the grocery store will never taste as fresh as these because they're picked before they're ready and speed-ripened. Speed ripening is a process when under ripe tomatoes are unnaturally sped to "ripen" and the skin turns red. But the inside is still under ripe. By the time it reaches the supermarket, the tomatoes have finished ripening, but it initially needed assistance. It's infeasible to wait for tomatoes to ripen naturally and deliver them from the farm without it rotting by the time it gets to us. So, given the circumstance, I can understand why this method is exercised, but that's also why I prefer going to Farmer's Markets. These were the free versions of the good stuff. Some of my friends think I'm nuts for making such a huge deal over tomatoes, but you'd be surprised to learn that tomatoes are the second most consumed fruit. Yes, botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruits. Produce that contain seeds are actually fruits, not vegetables. And yet the government perpetuates the ignorance surrounding tomatoes by legalizing it as a vegetable. I'm not exactly sure why. Well, anyways, if you haven't tried Heirloom tomatoes, I urge you to. I also suggest trying the yellow varieties, which, contrary to popular belief, aren't under ripe tomatoes, but, in fact, sweeter tasting than the red varieties.