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Barbacoa with Strawberry-Nectarine Salsa

September 19, 2016

SEPTEMBER 18th, 2016 — The “end of summer” is all I had to go off on for coming up with the idea for slow-cooked meat with fruity salsa.

barbacoa-2So what did you do?
I first got up in time to get the ingredients for the barbacoa. I then prepared the cooking liquid and mixed it in a pitcher, which included:

  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 4-5 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp adobo sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp salt

I then sliced 1 red onion into long strips, two thirds of which I laid down in a slow-cooker. On top of that bed I placed the 2.5 lbs chuck roast (various other recipes also recommend using brisket). I poured over the cooking liquid and placed the remaining onion on top. I then commenced the slow cooking for 8 hours on the low setting.

The reason why the cooking liquid ingredients are all so approximate is that about 5-6 hours in, I tasted a bit of the outside of the roast and found it pretty bland, so I added more chipotles, adobo, vinegar, and garlic salt.

At this point I also turned over the roast for even cooking.

barbacoa-3For the fruit salsa, I finely diced 2 cups strawberries, 2 large yellow nectarines, 1/2 onion, and a small bunch of cilantro. I tossed all in a large bowl with the juice of 1 lime. I added some salt to taste, though I don’t think it’s that necessary.

As a base, I decided to go with polenta (though I was considering some kind of cornmeal or masa cake). For the polenta, I sliced a pre-cooked log into slices and pan-fried them. I decided to leave them plain since they were going to be holding so many other flavorful passengers.

After assembling, I topped with feta cheese (only because Gelson’s didn’t have cotija or queso fresco)!

I’m not a very patient person (thus not one for slow cookers), but this was amazing and I’d make it again. Though—getting the meat cooked via the slow cooker ahead of time makes the rest of the cooking less stressful, as I was juggling with preparing fewer hot items.

barbacoa-1I’m obviously not going to call the whole thing a Mexican dish because of the lack of Mexican ingredients in everything other than the meat, but I think the balance of bright & deep flavors was spot-on.

 

 

Lessons learned?
I don’t cook with polenta all the time, and I remember that just like last time, the polenta wasn’t getting crispy the way I thought it would, even with the generous amount of oil I used to pan-fry it. I think I’ll try baking it with no oil next time…

Also, I tried to make it to the farmer’s market during its closing 20 minutes so as to find cheap strawberries, but I was too late, so I settled on Trader Joe’s strawberries, which weren’t very sweet. Boo.

Grilled Raspberry, Peach, and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

July 26, 2016

JGrilled Cheese - Goat, Raspberry (1)ULY 24th, 2016 — Fruity grilled cheese returns! Is it dessert?! Is it an appetizer?!
If you didn’t know, the out-of-the-blue idea of Grilled Mozzarella and Blueberry Sandwiches back in high school days was probably what got me into my experimental proclivities. This combo is episode 3 on this blog.

 

So what did you do?
Slice 2 medium peaches, slices from a log of (plain) goat cheese, and slice of a French baguette.

Build the sandwiches. Start with a slice of bread, the goat cheese, and the raspberries and peaches as they will fit.

In a frying pan, coat the bottom with olive oil. (I don’t have butter in the house all the time and prefer the taste of olive oil anyway.) Place your open-faced sandwiches into the frying pan, and then drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar and a little bit of honey, if desired. Then place the top slice of bread on top. Press down on your sandwich and flip when the crust is crisped to your liking.

Grilled Cheese - Goat, Raspberry (2)A crowd-pleaser, for sure (though considering you need to serve immediately, this recipe may be difficult for crowds). I needn’t say more other than the obscenities of how surprisingly good this is. I think the balance of salty and sweet, creamy and tangy, crunchy and smooth is what I’m all about.

This yielded 8 appetizer-sized portions.

It seems like I always resort to French bread for grilled cheese, likely for that balance of textures, a crusty perimeter that will sustain through grilling, and the soft center that absorbs the cheese and olive oil (or butter). But try another bread, by all means.

Grilled Cheese - Goat, Raspberry (3)Lessons learned?
I’m wary of pressing my bread because I don’t want to flatten it and make it lose its air pockets. But don’t forget to press just a little bit, because you really want those raspberries to ooze out.

Snapper and Seared Scallops Antiboise

July 26, 2016

JULY 24th, 2016 — Searing scallops should not be that intimidating. Maybe the more how-to videos and blog posts you see online, the more you’d think that seared scallops are easy to screw up. But this was the first time I prepared scallops, and they’re not that difficult to pull off. Also, seared scallops are an amazing thing, another illustration of the dialectic of raw and cooked, alongside the contributions of medium-rare steak and seared ahi tuna. Why don’t Chinese recipes call for scallops to be treated as such?

So I perused scallop dishes from various sources (chefs, restaurants) and stumbled upon sauce antiboise, originating from the town of Antibes, in Southern France. It’s a bit more like a ragout, since not everything is blended or slow-cooked for a historical amount of time.

Snapper Antiboise (1)So what did you do?
I first prepared the sauce antiboise. As previously mentioned, because this isn’t a sauce that is blended, or stewed for very long, you do want to dice your vegetables pretty finely, as if they were going into fried rice, for example. I diced:

  • 2 large roma tomatoes and ~1 1/2 cups red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup kalamata olives (recipes you might find will call for black, but I prefer the tart taste of kalamatas)
  • 2 small green peppers (not traditional, but I had these and needed to get rid of them somewhere)

For protein, I decided to diversify the portfolio a bit and provide a back-up to my first-time scallops, and got a nice red snapper, decapitated and gutted at the counter of a Ranch 99.

I sliced into the fish on both sides so as to make deep, gill-like pockets that would hold salt and pepper. I also rubbed salt and pepper in the middle of the fish where the guts had been. I drizzled the outside of the fish with olive oil.

I baked him at 300 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. At the 20-25 minute mark, I poked it with a fork to check, and seeing that some of the flesh still was a bit like a solid blob, and not flaky, I let it bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I defrosted 7 scallops, and pat them dry with a paper towel. Rule #1 to seared scallops is to get as moisture out as you can before searing because water will negatively affect the crispy factor. I seasoned both sides with salt and pepper.

To sear, cover a frying pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Lay each scallop down, and let sear for 60-90 seconds. You’re apparently not supposed to dare to touch them or interrupt them, but a nudge won’t ruin anything. You can see if the edges start to brown that it might be time to grab your tongs and flip them over to the next sides and sear those for another 60-90 seconds. Remove them from the pan when they’re done.

Now to cook the sauce. A tip from a scallops antiboise recipe I found from Bart van Olphen is to wipe down this same frying pan, but not wash it. This cleans it just enough but leaves remnants of oil with scallop flavor. Then I poured in all of the diced veggies, stirring constantly, and adding in about 3-4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. My vinegar is on the sweeter side, so if yours isn’t, you might fancy adding a drizzle of honey at this point.

Snapper Antiboise (2)When the veggies of the sauce antiboise were nice and soft, I plated the snapper first, with the scallops around them, and then spooned the sauce around and drizzled the sauce’s liquid on top. I then topped with capers and more black pepper.

Lessons learned?
You should defrost scallops overnight. If you don’t, and are pressed for time, you can microwave them for 30 seconds at a time, slowly, but I think this is maybe what contributed to the slight stringiness of my scallops, which isn’t awful.

Sauce antiboise is reminiscent of bruschetta. I’m most certainly going to use the leftover sauce to top bread or polenta, that’s for damn sure.

 

Mochi with Red Bean Filling

June 20, 2016

Mochi (1)JUNE 19th, 2016 — One of the things I know my grandma was bomb at making was mochi. I unfortunately don’t recall making the actual rice cake batter with her, but I’ve made it before with my friend Emily for Japanese class, and yes, you can do it in a microwave with good results.

So what did you do?
In a large bowl, I mixed:

  • 1 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (I used Koda Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 room temperature water

Poured that into a microwave-safe dish and microwaved on HIGH for 2 1/2 minutes. Checked and stirred around to see that it was doing okay and refraining from exploding, and microwaved it for another 3 minutes.

While you’re waiting for the microwave, I opened a can of red bean paste (I prefer chunky to smooth paste), and formed 1/4 tsp balls, rolling them in my hand. This is actually a super helpful tip when it comes to prep work because it makes assembly super fast and not messy.

Dust your work space (in my case, a large dinner plate) with flour. (I kept things consistent and used glutinous rice flour). To be extra cool, I sprinkled black sesame seeds onto my flour work space. I then spooned out approximately 2-3 tablespoons worth of the sticky rice cake batter onto the floured surface. It is ridiculously sticky and hot at this point, by the way, so give it time to cool after you spoon the portions out onto your surface. Then, with floured hands, I flattened the mochi and placed the rolled balls of red bean paste into the center. Then I bunched up the sides and rolled the mochi in my hands and dusted off the extra flour.

Mochi (4)Such a childhood treat. You should eat these within a day or two because, unless you added some preservative in here along the way, mochi tends to harden super quickly.

Lessons learned?
Some recipes out there say you should dust your work surface with cornstarch or potato starch. You don’t need to go out and buy that if you don’t have it in your kitchen. Just use the glutinous rice flour. Duh. It’s all tasteless anyway.

Taiwanese Minced Pork Over Rice

June 20, 2016

Taiwanese_Pork over Rice (1)JUNE 19th, 2016 — Wanted to honor my 1 Taiwanese grandma who passed in the past month, and I think of 2 things when I think of Taiwanese entrées: niu rou mian, beef noodle soup, which I ain’t got time for, and lu rou fan, which I know my brother is a huge fan of.

So what did you do?
I perused a few blogs to figure this one out. (I also adore the lady from TaiwanCooking.)
I’m lazy, preferring quicker recipes, and I also don’t like to buy a ton of ingredients like chicken/beef stock, that don’t keep for long and won’t be used immediately later that week. So here’s what I decided on doing:

In a large bowl I mixed (with my hands):

  • 2 1/2 lbs. ground pork
  • 3 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced,
  • 1/2 tsp salt — not adding a ton here because I added a lot of soy sauce later…
  • dashes of cinnamon, to taste (I didn’t see that one coming either–that makes both of us)

Then, in a pot, I added the pork. To be safe, I used some oil spray so that it for sure wouldn’t stick to the pot, but you don’t need to coat the pot with oil since your pork already has fat in it that will render out. While it’s cooking in here, add:

  • 8 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar (rice wine is also a common substitute)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil

Just as the pork is about cooked through, I added about 2 1/2 cups of diced shiitake mushrooms and tofu gan (aka “dried firm beancurd” or “baked savory tofu”) to the mixture.
I then added more five-spice powder, cinnamon, garlic salt, and ground black pepper, to taste.

Stir vigorously until everything is all cooked through. If you do this right, you’ll have a lovely spiced soy sauce that drips out onto the bed of steamed rice that you’ll spoon this pork mixture on.

Taiwanese_Pork over Rice (2)To accompany the dish, I used traditional ingredients of salted mustard greens and pickled daikon, which I found at my local Ranch 99. Sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top for purely cosmetic purposes.

Lessons learned?
Maybe a fattier cut, like pork shoulder would work better? I found my pork a bit drier than I’d find in restaurants, but maybe I just didn’t add an excess of oil and soy sauce.

Honey-Lime Glazed Chicken

May 1, 2016

APRIL 30th, 2016 — It’s as close as I get to making sweet & sour chicken. Also I still have a ton of honey from my New Year’s trip Cuba. It goes well with the farro salad and butternut squash fritters, no?

IMG_9350So what did you do?
Prepare the glaze. Whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • lime zest

Rub salt and pepper on your chicken. For this party I used breasts and thighs, though I think drumsticks would also be strong candidates. The breast pieces I got were pretty thick, so I banged on them with my fists (though a rolling pin or mallet would probably be more effective) to tenderize and thin them out.

In a hot, oiled skillet, lay down your chicken pieces. If the pieces have skin on, put the skin side down first. You cook the first side longer, so make sure it’s the skin side because you want that to crisp up. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or so.

Flip over, lower the heat, and pour over the glaze.

Garnish with pea shoot and/or micro-greens. Squeeze over limes for extra pizazz. Mmm. Sweet, tangy, and a little spicy.

Lessons learned?
Could have used more salt, but that’s just me.
I wonder if roasting would have been the easier option in terms of clean-up. Though I’m not sure you can get the same, crispy, searing effect on the skins of the chicken.

Butternut Squash Fritters with Mint-Pea Ricotta

May 1, 2016

APRIL 30th, 2016 — Inspiration: a marriage of 2 recipes of Jamie Oliver. (I didn’t exactly copy his recipes though.) But all that aside, butternut squash is the sh*t and a great swap for starchy potatoes, so the more squash recipes out there, the better I’d think, right?

IMG_9347So what did you do?
For the butternut squash fritters, you’ll need cooked butternut squash, but because you’ll need it cold, roasting the squash with olive oil and salt (and some drizzled honey) should be the first step. I roasted chopped squash at 365 degrees for 25-30 minutes. And then you can set it aside to cool.

You can make the pea ricotta purée ahead of time (because it’s cold), so I did that next.
Blanch your peas in salted boiling water for 3 minutes or less. I used a 16 oz. bag of frozen peas that I had defrosted. (I don’t think it really matters whether you defrost or not, since peas are that tiny.) Set aside to cool.
Running the peas under the cold tap is helpful to accelerate the cooling. It also halts the cooking process.

While the peas were cooling, I finely chopped a handful of fresh mint, being sure to save some for a topping garnish.

I then blended together:

  • 1.5 cups ricotta
  • the peas — I saved some whole to mix in later
  • the mint
  • 2-3 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil — I had this as a present; feel free to use olive oil and then some minced garlic… or garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

When that’s done, I let that sit in the fridge to cool.

For the fritters, mash together the butternut squash (about 4 cups worth) with:

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ~6 tbsp flour — will vary depending how moist/dry your mixture is
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Fry up the fritters in an oiled skilled in whatever size you’d like, and top with the mint-pea ricotta. Creamy, bright, refreshing, all at once or whatever.

Lessons learned?
Ricotta has a pretty great / unique texture, but it’s not particularly salty or tangy, so I’d probably add more salt and maybe add in some more garlic next time. Maybe a squeeze of citrus too.