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.