Friday, May 17, 2013
While this blog is about cooking, it's also about how to prepare great food at home even if you're living the apartment life, like me. I have just 1 oven, 4 burners (3 of which are small), and limited counter space. Yet nearly everything on this blog, I made at home. Which means you have no excuses. So when it comes to gardening, I want to encourage you to know that you can do it in your apartment, too! You're not going to grow an apple orchard, but there is no reason you can't grow some herbs and things!
The first thing I've been practicing with is what I call shot glass scallions. This is the easiest thing you can try at home! I have managed to kill many a plant in my day, but this has been a great success!
When you're cutting up your green onions, leave just a little bit more than the roots at the bottom. Instead of tossing the ends, plop them in tall shot glasses with a little bit of water. I forgot to take a picture the first day, but after 2-3 days they had already started to sprout this much. You can see from my arrow where I had cut them. The green had all grown in that quickly! I was excited.
I changed the water once every 3 days or so. After another week, this is how big my green onions were. Almost usable!! I'm so excited. They needed barely any maintenance: no soil, just a little water and sunlight on our windowsill. My mom had this great bud vase growing up that was the shape of 6 shot glasses connected to each other. I think that would be perfect for this if I could find one. I might never need to buy scallions again if I just keep re-growing them!!
This was such a success that I'm going to start trying to grow a few more herbs - basil, rosemary, thyme, and peppermint - in pots outside. I have a history of killing all of the above herbs (and even letting a small basil plant disappear off my DC balcony in a thunderstorm once) so we'll see what happens. We're also trying some cherry tomatoes and habanero peppers, which are even more of an experiment. I have a pretty little flower, too. So we'll see what happens. I'll give you an update in a couple of months!
Monday, May 13, 2013
Before my parents moved up to the lake, I used to spend my vacation time in New England on Cape Cod with my aunt, uncle and little cousins. It's a shame that it's becoming harder and harder to squeeze in any time on the Cape now that I've moved further away and my job doesn't have the flexibility of my college internships. I miss lobster rolls, my daily serving of incredible ice cream, and especially my Aunt's Chicken Caesar Salad (which she got from Jamie Oliver). So with the first bit of what felt like summer last week, I was craving this salad for dinner.
Obviously I didn't quite think through the fact that having our oven on 400 for 2 hours on the first day when Chicago had temperatures over 80 was probably not the best idea I'd ever had. But when I got home from yoga and this salad was done, I didn't even care that I was sweating bullets. I was transplanted to a summer day on the Cape when I could still carry my littlest cousin to the beach and when she saw me her face lit up like I was Santa Claus. Nowadays I just get pictures of her wearing high heels and makeup. Sigh.
There are a couple of things to note about this salad. The first is that this is not a "look I'm on a diet so I'm eating salad for dinner" salad. You just let a loaf of bread soak up chicken fat and bacon grease for 2 hours and then ate it. Don't kid yourself. On a side note, these are literally the best croutons in the entire world.
If you do burn them a little bit because you turn the broiler on and then get distracted doing something important like studying for med school finals (I'm not saying that the Monkey Scientist burned all of the croutons while I was at yoga or anything like that), try to salvage them and just cut off the charred bits. They'll be just fine as long as you didn't burn the whole thing!
The second is anchovies. Yes, I know you're scared. Yes, they smell like cat food (and look like it once you mash them up). No, they aren't something I want on my pizza. But this is Caesar salad folks. And without anchovies, it just isn't Caesar dressing. I promise they won't taste like cat food once you drown them in olive oil, creme fraiche, and lemon juice. Just trust me on this one, OK? On the bright side, who knew that a can of anchovies cost barely more than a dollar? I don't even feel that bad that I threw the rest of the can away (because what the heck was I going to do with leftover anchovies).
Now when I say this is my favorite Caesar salad ever, I'm not joking. The dressing is creamy and delicious. The croutons soak up all that fat, get crispy in the oven, and then when you put the dressing on them they soak it up and become chewable without destroying your teeth. Again, best croutons in the world. I enjoy the baked, dark meat chicken on this about 1000 times more than the rubbery slices of grilled chicken breast you get anywhere else. Although my aunt actually uses bone-in, skin on chicken breasts and it works great, too. And despite the fact that the roommate made a side of pasta, I stand by the fact that this salad is a solid meal. Even the Monkey Scientist had it for his whole dinner. It's worth every minute of sweltering over the oven.
Bacon Chicken Caesar Salad
slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
4-6 chicken legs, skin on
1 round loaf sourdough bread (about 9 ounces), chopped into 1.5" cubes
6 slices bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 clove peeled and smashed garlic
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
3 oz freshly grated Parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve
1 heaped tbsp creme fraiche
1 lemon, juiced (about 2 oz)
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 6 oz)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large glass baking dish, lay out the cubed bread, then bacon, then chicken legs. Drizzle with about 3 tbsp (or more) olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt, black pepper, and chopped rosemary. Toss to coat evenly.
3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, or until the chicken can easily be peeled off the bone. Remove the chicken, and toss the bacon and croutons. Make sure to leave all the fat drippings from the chicken and bacon in there. The croutons will soak that up and that's what makes them delicious! Return to the oven and allow to bake until the croutons and bacon are crispy but not burnt, tossing every 5-10 minutes or as necessary. If this isn't happening at 400 degrees F, turn the broiler on low, but watch carefully as the croutons could start to burn quickly!
4. When the chicken has cooled slightly, use your hands or two forks to peel off the skin and discard, then peel the meat off the bones and shred. Chop the crispy bacon into bite size pieces.
5. Add the lettuce, chicken, croutons, and bacon to a large salad bowl.
6. Assemble the dressing: Using a mortar and pestle (or in my case, a small bowl and the handle of a lemon reamer), smash the anchovies and garlic into a thick paste. Whisk in the grated Parmesan, creme fraiche, juice of 1 lemon, and 3 times as much extra-virgin olive oil as lemon juice.
7. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Serve with a few Parmesan shavings on top.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I have been learning to love craft beers over the last few years. Since college, I'm not a huge drinker, but I am getting quite skilled at drinking a half to a whole bottle of a really good beer lately. It's been a long journey from ordering light beers to understanding what types of beers I actually like. I know I'm not the only one who would choose a nice craft beer over a Bud Light. The growing number of bars with loads of beers on tap are a statement that wine-lovers aren't the only ones who get to be picky anymore!
In DC, we used to love going to Comet Ping Pong, where not only is the beer list long, but the pizza is pretty stellar as well. The fact that you can play ping pong while you wait for a table on their patio doesn't hurt either. And it was at Comet Ping Pong that I learned to love a brown ale, but more specifically learned that my very favorite beer just might be Tommyknocker's Maple Nut Brown Ale. If you're surprised that this beer infused with maple syrup is my favorite... Hi, I'm Dani and welcome to my blog that might as well be named yellebelly-full-of-maple. And lucky for me, I found a single bottle of this gem in the Make Your Own 6-Pack section of my local Jewel last week. Unlucky for me, I only found a single bottle. Can we find me some more please?
My favorite beer, well most beers really, went great with this flank steak, broiled and topped with a caprese salad. I know what you're thinking, "wait a minute, Dani, you ate tomatoes?" Yes folks, I have been learning to tolerate, maybe even like, cherry tomatoes. As long as they've never seen a refrigerator. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks after all! Because man, I loved every bite of this dish!
from How Sweet It Is
1 (2 lb) flank steak, about 1 inch thick
1 1/2 c dry red wine
1/2 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small shallot, diced (I left this out)
1/2 c mini mozzerella balls, quartered
10 basil leaves, freshly chopped or chiffonaded
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp garlic salt
pinch of pepper
1. In a large ziploc bag, combine the steak, red wine, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Shake it up, then let it marinate for 2-24 hours in the refrigerator.
2. Place the marinated steak on a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil on high for 6 minutes on each side, or until it's starting to char. You're welcome to grill it too, if you're into that.
3. Pour the extra marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until it is reduced and you've killed all the evil steak bacteria.
4. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallot (if using), mozzarella balls, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
5. Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes before slicing (unless you're impatient like me and hungry enough to eat dried out steak). Serve slices topped with caprese salad. Serve the reduced marinade on the side as a sauce for those who'd like it (or would like to dip freshly baked french bread in it).
Friday, May 3, 2013
Last weekend was the first weekend with really gorgeous weather. The kind of weather that makes me force the Monkey Scientist out of the house to play in the sunshine with me. I wanted to celebrate with a bright and yummy breakfast to start the day on Saturday, which to me always means muffins. I bought a bag of frozen Maine blueberries at Trader Joe's a while ago and used the first half to make Easter muffins. They were corn and blueberry muffins and well... they were not a hit. So I decided to scrap that recipe and try something new.
Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone and make the recipe as it was written. I'm too obsessed with maple and malted anything to allow that. So I winged it and added quantities I thought would work (reasons I am not usually a baker) and magically it worked out! I was sort of afraid they'd end up super dry or un-risen or something, but somehow my additions didn't disturb the recipe too badly. Saturday win!
These muffins turned out wonderfully. Right after I put them in the oven I had to run to yoga class, so I left the Monkey Scientist to pull them out of the oven and make sure they were done. When I got home an hour later, one muffin was halfway in his mouth and another had disappeared. Looked like an upgrade from my Easter muffin fail for sure! Next time, I'd love to increase the maple flavor - maybe even using maple sugar instead of regular. But this recipe is an easy weekend go-to for now!
Here's to hoping this weekend is just as beautiful as last!
Malted Maple Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Taste of Home
makes one dozen muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup malted milk powder
1 stick butter, softened
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cups frozen Maine blueberries
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and malted milk powder.
3. In the bowl of your standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extra and mix until combined evenly.
4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the frozen blueberries with a spatula.
5. Evenly distribute the batter into a 12 muffin tin lined with muffin cups. In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar and nutmeg and sprinkle over each muffin.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Unless this is your very first visit to the blog, you know we are spicy food eaters. I'm pretty sure sriracha has replaced ketchup in my regular diet (yes, it's all I put on my hot dogs), and the Monkey Scientist believes salt and pepper means salt and crushed red pepper flakes. When the roommate and I were at HMart, the women handing out samples warned us a few times that we should be careful because whatever they were giving us was very spicy. We disagreed.
I say all of this as a warning. This dish was barely more than spaghetti and marinara sauce in our house, but our house is clearly not the norm. If you hate spicy food switch on over to this post. And just ignore all that crushed red pepper....
One thing I love about Asian foods is the variety and intensity of the spiciness they offer. Korean foods in particular have great flavor even in the spiciest ingredients. Whenever we go to the Asian market, we have to pick up a container of gochujang. This time, I learned something new about gochujang! It is rated in terms of spice where the higher number is spicier. Gochujang rated 1-2 is mild, 3 is medium, 4 is hot, and 5 is "burn your face off" hot. Or at least I think that's what this label was trying to tell me. We picked up a 3 and a 5 (the latter for the Monkey Scientist, of course). We don't actually buy this brand, despite their amazing graphic design. We buy Sunchang because the woman at HMart told us it's the best (and some others seem to agree).
I liked this dish because I thought it would be a good way to test out the difference between the gochujang rated a 3 vs the 5. Honestly, I was terrified of the 5 at first. The picture on the jar doesn't have eyes anymore! But it actually wasn't that bad. At first, I don't think there is even a difference between the 3 and 5, but once it hits your mouth the 5 does create a tingle. I definitely burns a little bit, but it's also sort of just like a really pungent half sour pickle. For every day, the 3 is just fine, but I'm ok with keeping the 5 in the house as well.
The dish itself is...interesting. Which I know was what my great grandmother said about things she didn't like, but that's not what I mean at all. I wouldn't say it was my favorite thing I've made recently, but it was a nice change of pace to what we usually eat and was super simple to throw together. It's a cold noodle dish, which I'm not very accustomed to making. I like the cold of the noodles contrasted with the heat from the gochujang. The tobiko on top added a nice bite that I enjoyed a lot. The original recipe was served with a hard boiled egg, but that did not sound up my alley at all. Otherwise, the recipe itself was very good!
BiBim Nengmyun (Gochujang Buckwheat Noodles)
slightly adapted from spoon fork bacon
8 ounces Korean-style buckwheat noodles
1/3 cup gochujang
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp tobiko (flying fish roe)
¼ small hothouse cucumber, julienne
1. Cook the buckwheat noodles according to package instructions. Rinse in a colander under cold water until the noodles are cool.
2. Combine the gochujang, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. The gochujang will be thick at first, but just keep whisking!
3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat. Garnish with tobiko and julienned cucumber.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
This weekend we finally made a trip up to my favorite type of grocery store - the Asian market. We hadn't been in so many months, I was running low on lots of my staple ingredients! Although there are a few Asian markets on the north side of Chicago, I haven't found any Korean markets, and I hadn't found any markets that were very big. So this weekend was the grand adventure - we went up to the HMart in Niles.
I've been to HMart's in Maryland and Massachusetts, so I knew generally what I could expect. But the one in Niles is a Super HMart which means it's the size of the Home Depot next door. We were literally lost in there for hours. We watched folks making kimchi, tried lots of samples (except the blood sausage... the woman handing out samples didn't think it was a good idea to offer me any), and loaded up on some of our favorite ingredients.
One fun part of the trip was watching the men at HMart making fresh kimchi. For those of you who aren't familiar with kimchi, it's a spicy fermented cabbage dish. It's almost similar to a good half sour pickle. In Korean restaurants, they often start the meal with a variety of very small side dishes that can include tofu, a type of Korean potato salad, broccoli, and always kimchi. I'd never seen anyone make it before so this was a special treat for me. They pull the cabbage to shreds while they're mixing it with the spices and vinegar. Pretty cool!
This salmon dish was really delicious. It was a nice change of pace from our usual lemon juice and garlic salt preparation. It was just a little bit spicy from the sambal oelek and was sweetened by the sherry and sugar. The ginger, garlic, and soy sauce rounded out the traditional Asian flavors. In Korean tradition, I served a side of the freshly made kimchi along with our meal, which was spicy and pungent. My favorite! I especially liked the bed of bok choy and mushrooms under the salmon. Stay tuned for the final component of the meal!
Bulgogi-Style Salmon with Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms
slightly adapted from WeHeartFood
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking sherry (Chinese rice wine would work, too)
2 tsp minced fresh ginger, divided
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)
2 salmon fillets, 0.5-1 lb each
1 tbsp olive oil (or chili-infused olive oil)
1 bunch bok choy, bottoms removed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
2. Combine 2 of the garlic cloves (I broke them up slightly but didn't bother mincing), green onions, soy sauce, sherry, 1 tsp of ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and chili-garlic sauce. Blend using either your immersion blender or food processor until smooth to create your marinade.
3. Place the salmon in a glass baking dish. Pour the marinade evenly over the salmon fillets and allow to marinate for at least 5 minutes. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the salmon is just opaque at the center.
4. Meanwhile, place the olive in a wok and heat over medium high heat. Add the remaining clove of garlic, minced, and 1 tsp of ginger to the oil and heat until fragrant.
5. Add the bok choy and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are soft and the bok choy is wilted.
6. Serve the salmon over a bed of bok choy and mushrooms.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Let's talk okra. Have you ever tried okra? I grew up just north of Boston, so needless to say we were not a big okra-eating family. Actually, we weren't an okra-eating family at all. I'm not sure I'd ever even seen okra before I moved to DC, never mind tried it. I mean, the stuff looks like it's covered in dog slobber. Not exactly on my top 10 "must try" list.
Strangely enough, the grocery store by my apartment in Chicago almost always has okra. (Except the first time I'd worked up the nerve to try it. Obviously, that day they had no okra whatsoever.) In my store, it's up on the shelf with the Brussels sprouts. And that is another food - Brussels sprouts - that I never thought I liked until I found out they're actually my favorite thing in the world when sauteed in bacon fat and mixed with Israeli couscous. So if I could give Brussels sprouts a shot, why not okra?
My first instinct was that the dog slobber oozing out of the okra needs to be dried up. Please. And that means we are not making okra in a pan. We are not sauteing it down to a puddle of dog slobber. I'm not quite ready for that, even if I was using bacon fat. When I found this recipe for roasting the okra, I figured this was the best way to go.
By the way, as long as we're talking bacon fat, I have a confession to make. For Easter, I made a quiche (which obviously included bacon) and ever since I've been saving leftover bacon fat in my fridge. I only use it for things like quick brussels sprouts on a weeknight. But yeah, there's that. Don't judge me. Especially if you're my sweet Kosher-keeping Bubby.
Right, so okra. Okra rocks. Or at least this okra recipe does. I'm not quite ready to venture out and try any others yet, but I'm pretty stoked about what we had going on here. I'm always looking for a new vegetable to change up our routine (which, come summer, is asparagus, asparagus, asparagus....and our roommate hates asparagus) so this is a really nice change of pace. Plus it's seriously easy. You don't even have to trim the tops off if you don't want to! And the chili-infused olive oil the Monkey Scientist's mom gave us has some serious kick to it, so you know he was loving this recipe, too. (But if you're a weirdo and don't like spicy foods, you could use olive oil instead and I think you'll be just fine!) I'm excited. It's going into the rotation.
Oh, P.S. those glorious little nuggets on the plate that look like tater tots are actually roasted gnocchi. In this case, Cajun roasted gnocchi. My old co-worker's sister gave me this recipe months ago and it is one of my favorite things ever. I really need to share it with you one of these days!
Spicy Roasted Okra
1 lb okra
1/4 c chili-infused olive oil (we bought it, but you can make your own)
1/2 tsp ground sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Wash the okra and slice in half vertically. I cut the tops off first, but this is optional.
3. Put the okra in a large bowl with the chili-infused olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
4. Place the okra in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the okra is browned and crispy. Serve immediately.