Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Eager to avoid the king of amateur nights (and a cold, rainy one at that, in DC), John and I opted to stay in and indulge ourselves, without the effort of cooking. Behold, our lovely repast, pieced together from both our fridges:



Clockwise, from midnight: sharp cheddar, dry sausage (thanks, Norah!), goat cheese, Laughing Cow baby bels and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mustard in the center, olives, macademia nuts (courtesy of John's father) and crackers on the side. And of course, the celebratory Islay.



The roasted garlic was a late but welcome arrival to the table.

 

And for dessert? Baked apple à la mode (and à la Bittman).




Good food, good drink, good movies (The Return of the Thin Man on AMC), perhaps some Xboxing later -- and, most importantly, great company. Who could ask for anything more?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yes, April, We Put Up the Christmas Tree

With time to spare, even, since I'm of the opinion that the holidays don't end till Epiphany. The only real ornaments are courtesy of John, but I will admit to liking how Evil Empire bear glowers malevolently over all.



Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Leftovers for Lunch!

After a hard morning of playing Fallout 1 playing Torchlight cleaning, what better and more convenient way to refuel than with leftovers? Couscous from yesterday, John's vinegary cabbage salad and Magic Bag peas from Monday, plus a few slices of Spam fried so they're crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. Turned out to be a wonderful mix of sweet (peas), sour (salad) and salty (guess which one?), as well as a colorful meal.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Today's Lunch: Tuna Mac and Cheese

Now that I'm home from the holidays, the staycation begins in earnest! Used a box of whole wheat Annie's Organics as a base. While the pasta was cooking, I diced 1/2 medium onion and 1 celery stalk, sauteed them with a bit of olive oil, then added a can of tuna. Nothing fancy, and not nearly as rich as the bacon mac my sister made on Christmas eve, but nonetheless nourishing (and a good excuse to pull out the camera again). The learning curve re: phoodtography is pretty steep, but at least I have a nicely-colored bowl that showcases my noms. Would have taken more photos, but the perfect is the enemy of the good -- and the hungry.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pasta and Pictures

I've got a miniature secret camera - well, more like a Canon Elph. Thanks, Tita Tessie and Uncle Dave! Now this blog will also be subject to my occasional clumsy attempts to learn how to photograph my food. While I obviously won't have a setup as fancy as Michael Ruhlman's, digital cameras are wonderfully forgiving, and it will be fun - for me, at least.

And now to the food. Last night I made a riff on this pasta with leek sauce recipe - olive oil instead of butter, added a minced anchovy and about 1/3 tsp. red pepper flakes with the garlic, skipped the cream and served with grated Parmesan. Below, an action shot!



The pasta was good, if a tad dry - John's mustardy carrots (not pictured) on the side helped, but in retrospect I should have used some of the pasta water and perhaps a bit more cheese. This morning, for breakfast, I fried some thin slices of Spam, reheated some pasta in the resulting oil, diced the meat and added it to the dish. Breakfast of - well, if not champions, stay-cationers, at least. It was more nutritious than my usual morning convenience fare: instant ramen, one of my longest-reigning comfort foods and guilty pleasures.



(Yes, I had some of it before remembering to take the picture.) Note that I least tried to health it up with a handful of greens, in addition to the usual scallions.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives and Anchovies

With less than three days left before the start of my 2-1/2 week staycation, and our office Xmas lunch on Wednesday, I had to make enough food to bring to work for Monday and Tuesday. And thus, this recipe, a riff on Bittman's "Chicken Thighs Provencal-Style" - though, in retrospect, it's really a variation on a basic tomato sauce. Alas, there was no fresh basil on hand. Fortunately, our neighbor's marjoram plant is still going strong, so some fresh herb did make it into the dish, which turned out quite well -- rich and savory and almost creamy, despite the utter lack of dairy.
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 heaping tbsp.)
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes, chopped or crushed (I love hand-crushing them; it's very therapeutic)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine or water (used boxed stock)
  • 1 cup Kalamanta olives, pitted
  • 3 small sprigs marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken briefly, then set it aside.

Pour off all but 2 tbsp. of oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, till they start getting soft - about 3-5 minutes.

Add the minced anchovies and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more.

Turn the heat to medium high. Add the tomatoes and cook till some of the liquid's bubbled away (about 5-10 minutes).

Add the stock, wine or water, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, till some of that liquid's evaporated.

Add the olives and herbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Return the chicken to the skillet, turning it on each side a couple of times to make sure it gets coated with the tomato mixture. Nestle it in the sauce, skin-side up, then turn the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook till the chicken's done (anywhere from 20-40 minutes - closer to the latter for small electric burners).

Serve over the starch of your choice (couscous last night, rice today at work).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pasta With Leek Sauce

Mr. Bento bears two helpings of this treat today (accompanied by John's delicious parsnip and Parmesan soup -- recipe courtesy of one version of the New Covent Garden Soup Co. Book of Soups -- and 5 oz. of sardines in tomato sauce). It's a riff on a recipe from Chowhound, which in turn riffs on a recipe from Marcella Hazan. While I initially balked at the amount of butter and the lengthy cooking time, this turned out wonderfully -- this and the soup made for sweet, earthy dinner on a near-winter night (and of course, there were leftovers for today). My version below:

5 medium-sized leeks, white and light-green parts cut into 1/4" rounds (will use 1-2 more next time)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. butter
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup half and half (original recipe called for 1/2 cup heavy cream)
1 (13.2 oz) box whole wheat pasta (used penne this time)
salt and freshly-ground pepper
2-4 oz. (or more to taste) freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Clean leeks by soaking in a bowl of water or using a salad spinner. Remove excess water, but don't dry them too thoroughly.

Put oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic till it's just starting to brown. Remove garlic (I saved mine for roasting and having separately, but may try leaving it in next time).

Add leeks to the skillet. Sprinkle them with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, till they're extremely soft and almost meltingly tender (about 45 minutes - 1 hour). If they start looking dry, add 2-3 tablespoons of water at a time, then stir. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water till al dente.

NOTE: Since my leeks were already turning brown and we were getting hungry, I skipped this step. Turn the heat to high and cook the leeks till they're a pale nut color, flipping them occasionally.

Add half-and-half to the skillet and reduce for about a minute. Season liberally with pepper. Add cooked pasta to skillet (or transfer sauce mixture into pasta pot, whichever you prefer) and mix everything together; then, add a generous amount of grated cheese (enough to ensure a clingy, non-liquidy sauce) and mix again. Correct seasoning and serve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Bento

I've steamed other things in my rice cooker before, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to wilt young spinach leaves in a strainer while my sausages boiled. While the magic bag is definitely handy, I'll have to start timing various veggies in both the cooker and atop a boiling saucepan of something else.

So, today I'm having:
  • 2 lamb sausages (tasty on their own, but with a small container of spicy vinegar for added kick)
  • garlic steamed rice
  • baby spinach
They all fit together nicely in a square plastic container. I'll probably grab a banana at some point today as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bittman: 101 Make-Ahead Recipes for Turkey Day

Another list for the reference tag - not just limited to Thanksgiving recipes, either.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Today's Bento: I Know My [Roast] Chicken

Didn't bring Mr. Bento today - just two small plastic containers: one full of salad greens and homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing, the other loaded with roasted chicken and vegetables (carrots, potatoes and a nice, plump clove of garlic).

Brining the meat for 24 hours (have to get the recipe from John at some point; he certainly knows both his brines and his chickens) worked wonders. The bird was tender and moist -- ever so slightly tangy but not salty (even the breast meat, some of which I packed alongside a wing for today's lunch). The herbed butter (about 2 tbsp. + 8 sage leaves + salt and pepper, chopped and mixed in a food processer) we rubbed under its skin beforehand probably helped too.

We roasted the bird - breast-down for the first 30 minutes - on a bed of potatoes, carrots, garlic and onions for somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, basting occasionally, till the meat thermometer told us we could stop. As noted, the meat was very good; the vegetables, alas, were a bit underdone, but that was our fault for not chopping them into small enough chunks.

UPDATE: Brine recipe is here, and in the comment below.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lamb Stew with Dill and Root Vegetables

Yesterday was the first time I cooked with dill. Handling the delicate, feathery herb is such a pleasure, even when you're frantically stripping fronds from stems because you forgot to add the latter to the cooking lamb. Gathering up the loose cupful of leaves to chop tickled my palms and fingertips; the delicate, fresh scent brought back memories of a summer night in Portland and the mild, gentle Bloody Dane I had there.

Herewith, the recipe I used last night - a riff on one of Bittman's riffs. While the stew turned out a tad soupy, it tastes good - lightly flavorful, but filling - and will probably taste even better tomorrow. I can also reduce the sauce a bit later on.
  • 3 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 2-in. chunks (original: 2 lbs.)
  • 1-2 tbsp. oil (used vegetable, because that was closest to hand - original recipe doesn't call for browning)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (original: 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 5 carrots, cut into 1-1/2 in. chunks (about 1-1/2 lbs.; original calls for about 3 lbs. of any combination of root vegetables)
  • 3 potatoes, cut into 1-1/2 in. chunks (another 1-1/2 lbs. or so)
  • 2 cups of liquid (used a low-sodium beef broth this time; may use less next time)
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Brown lamb chunks in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove and set aside.

Deglaze pot (I used a wee bit of cider vinegar and some broth, this time).

Strip the the leaves from a bunch of dill. Tie the stems together. Chop the leaves and set them aside.

Return meat to pot along with onions and dill stems. Season with salt and pepper, then add liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn to low, and simmer till lamb is getting tender (about 60 min. in my case, but then again we were also playing Borderlands).

Add the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat till they're tender but not mushy - about 30-40 min., in this case.

When everything's done, stir in the dill. Correct seasoning, if necessary.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Noble Nombles

We visited George Washington's Mt. Vernon estate today. The house and grounds were beautiful; and the tours and museum exhibits were educational. But one of the best things I got out of the trip was a copy of Martha Washington's A Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, which I found in one of the gift shops. I'm only a few pages (and some random recipe browsing) in, but it's already an engaging read - as both a food history (both the introduction and the recipe notes are very well done) and an historical recipe book.

While I won't be preparing this dish anytime soon (though it sounds delicious), it turns out that humble pie began as anything but. As Karen Hess explains in her gloss of the recipe,
    [t]he humbles are the heart, liver and other organs of the deer. The word comes from Old French nombles...OED is firm; humbles is an occasional spelling of umbles, itself a later form of numbles....In due time, umbles became confused with humble, meaning meek or lowly. There is no basis for this in early culinary history. Indeed, noumbles was a royal dish, and recipes appear in The Forme of Cury, about 1390, which was compiled by the master cooks to Richard II. The earliest citing of humble pie in the figurative sense of suffering humiliation is given in OED for 1830. 
Though historian Richard E. Barkley has declared that "[t]o eat humble pie is in no way related to the food Umble pie," Hess hypothesizes that "[p]erhaps the substitution of pluck [the innards of any animal used as food] from other beasts, as evidenced in our manuscript, gradually lowered the status of the dish and so contributed to the figurative meaning, already prepared for by the homonyms umbles and humbles."

Herewith, the original recipe:
    Take ye humbles of a deere, or a calves heart, or pluck, or a sheep's heart; perboyle it, & when it is colde, shread it small with beefe suet, & season it with cloves, mace, nutmegg & ginger beaten small; & mingle with it currans, verges & salt; put all into ye pie & set it in the oven an houre; then take it out, cut it up & put in some clarret wine, melted butter & sugar beat together. then cover it a little & serve it.
Finally, here's the loveliest piece of humble pie that comes to mind.

UPDATE (24 Nov.): These charming, ambulatory nombles holders currently live on the Mt. Vernon estate:


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Seasonal Bento

My lunch looks like fall, today: fluffy white rice; soft yellow-green sauteed artichokes, interspersed with golden-brown bits of garlic and garnished with a bright yellow lemon slice; dappled tan and Maillard-brown sausages, speckled with green inside. The most intense colors congegrated in the top container: deep purple and brown Nicoise olives, five dark green cornichons and two red waxen mini-wheels of Laughing Cow cheese.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chicken Cutlets en Papillote with Grated Vegetables

Last night was the first time we tried "poaching" chicken in parchment packets in the oven. John was skeptical at first. But, after tasting the long-cooked but still moist and flavorful meat, he vowed to "always trust the Bittman." The recipe below is based on the one in the first How to Cook Everything, but halved; where we varied, the original is in parentheses. Next time, I'll try using even more vegetables (and a larger variety thereof) - they cooked down to next to nothing, but were very flavorful. All in all, a satisfying autumn dinner (with scallion-topped couscous as the starch).
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
  • skipped the slices of ripe tomato
  • 1-1/2 cups grated vegetables (original: 1 cup, though we'll want to use even more - this time, the veg were squash and onions)
  • 2 sprigs marjoram (original: 6 fresh tarragon leaves)
  • about 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • a few drops of balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Grate the vegetables.

Tear off a 1-1/2 to 2 foot square piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper (we were lazy and wrapped both breasts in one packet).

Place the cutlets on the foil/paper. Top with vegetables, then drizzle with oil and vinegar.

Seal the packages. Place them in a large baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes (took us more like 45 minutes); the chicken will be white and tender when done.

Serve.

Yesterday's Brunch: Eggs Baked in Tomatoes with Basil

Last weekend, I bought two lovely, large tomatoes and 1/4 lb. of prosciutto di Parma specifically for this recipe, courtesy of Almost Bourdain. Thankfully, John's basil plants, which are winding down for the cold season, graced us with a few more leaves. Alas, we overcooked the eggs - they were more hard-boiled than poached - but this still made a tasty brunch. Next time, I may add a bit of pasted garlic or an anchovy to the paste to smear along the inside of the tomatoes.
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 strips proscuitto (or pancetta)
  • a small handful of basil leaves (we had 7-8 small ones)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil, more if needed
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (John's oven is more finicky, so we ended up more at 250 degrees).

Cut the tops off the tomatoes and remove their seeds. Set them upside-down over paper towels and let them drain for about 15 minutes.

Wrap a strip of proscuitto around each tomato and secure with toothpicks.

Smash the basil leaves into a paste. Add a bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Smear the mixture on the inside of the tomatoes.

Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet or ovenproof Pyrex dish. Bake in the oven till the proscuttio begins to brown around the edges (original recipe said about 15 minutes; took us more like 30).

Remove from oven. Break an egg into each tomato, then return. Bake till the eggs are done, but with runny yolks.

Serve with toast soldiers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brunch, Bentos, Beets - and Andrew Bird

Laziness has led to one of these all-in-one posts. Saw St. Vincent and Andrew Bird last night - a wonderful show (there's a pretty good write-up at DCist, which alas doesn't mention the new duet "Lusitania" - one of the concert's highlights). I'd never seen St. Vincent live before, and am now regretting not catching her earlier this year at the Cat - her music's much more powerful, complex and interesting live. The Bird portion of the evening seemed even tighter and better than his last 9:30 show, even before taking the St. Vincent collaborations into account.

UPDATE: Found footage of their "Oh Sister" cover, complete with the utterly charming mess-up.

And now to brunch. Last Sunday, we had rosemary and lamb sausages (from Canales at Eastern Market - one of their in-house products), couscous and spinach - which is how I discovered yet another time-saving shortcut. Chop and wash the spinach (nice and fresh from one of the weekend vendors - a bulging plastic grocery bag full cost only $3!) while the water is coming to a boil. Once you've added the couscous, let the water return to a boil, wait a few seconds (so the greens have a fairly solid clump of carbs to land on), throw in the spinach, put the lid on the pot, wait a few more seconds then remove from heat. The spinach was perfectly steamed after a 5-6 minute wait.

Did much the same thing with some chicken and portebello mushroom sausages for Monday's bento; Wednesday and Thursdays consisted of John's meatloaf (UPDATE: recipe here), rice and a few cornichons to counterpoint the ketchupy sweetness.

And now to the week's pickling - beets, this time. I can't find the recipe we used right now, but John put up a bunch of beets, 6 eggs and an onion in two jars. Just 24 hours later, they were delicious - even more so another day later. I can still remember the tart, sweet, earthiness of the egg he fed me right before we left for the concert last night.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nilagang Baka (Beef Stew/Soup)

My near-constant craving for soup probably has something to do with the encroaching cold and the cold/cough I've been fighting off. I wanted something nourishing but not bland, and so riffed on this recipe for an old comfort food staple. Prep took a little longer than usual - partially because I opted to brown the beef, and I've never been the world's fastest mincer - but was easily accomplished during innings 2-6 of this sad-making game.
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil
  • 2 lbs. beef, cut into 1-1/2 to 2 in. cubes
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 cups water (not enough for the soupiness I wanted - will add 2 or so cups more next time)
  • 4 tbsp. patis (will try more next time)
  • 1 heaping tsp. black peppercorns
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-1/2 to 2 in. cubes
  • 1 small cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 bok choy, chopped (alas, didn't have this)
Place oil in a large pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Brown beef on all sides (about 5 min.). Remove from pot and reserve.

Add onions and garlic. Saute till soft (3-5 min.), making sure to scrape the pan and free the fond-y goodness from the browned meat.

Return beef to pot. Add water, patis and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer till beef is tender (1 hour, maybe more).

Add potatoes; return to a boil, then to a simmer till potatoes are nearly done (10-15 min.).

Add cabbage; return to a boil, then simmer till everything's done (10 or so min.).

Correct seasoning if necessary, then serve hot over lots of white rice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today's Bento

The office is particularly cold today, so I'm warming my stiff little fingers (alas, couldn't find YouTube footage of "Here We Are Nowhere") with a brief what's-for-lunch post. Mr. Bento's contents:
  • red grapes
  • braised leeks (2 medium-sized leeks halved, then cut into 4-inch lengths. Saute in a tbsp of butter for about 5 minutes or until browning, turning once or twice and seasoning with salt and pepper; add 1/4-1/3 cup chicken broth or water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 mins or till very tender. Remove from heat, drizzle with lemon juice (or, if you're packing it, just throw a couple of lemon slices in alongside)
  • rice
  • sardines in tomato sauce (straight out of the tin - was too lazy to saute them with onions and garlic)
I also have an orange, a banana and maybe 1/4 cup of leftover garlic cracker nuts in reserve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today's Bento

Between doing laundry and watching the Phillies dismantle the Dodgers last night, I managed to put together a good little lunch:
  • boiled sausage (with spicy suka - Filipino cane vinegar infused with garlic and chiles - on the side, of course!)
  • double garlic fried rice (about 2 cups of leftover garlic steamed rice fried in peanut oil with another tbsp. or so of chopped garlic, 3 chopped scallions and soy sauce to taste)
  • sauteed spinach (cook a heaping tbsp of chopped garlic and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add a 10-oz. bag of spinach, roughly chopped, and cook, stirring often, till greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with lemon juice just before nomming)
  • an orange, a bit of Laughing Cow cheese and some garlic-flavored cracker nuts for snacks
Even hours after everything was packed away, the apartment smelled like the paradise where all good garlic cloves go when they die - a rich, warming aroma for a cold autumn weekend. Though I'm getting home late tonight, I'll hopefully have the energy and inclination to cook the leftover leeks and pickle the cute little cukes I got at EM yesterday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Afritadang Manok (Chicken Sauteed with Tomato Sauce and Vegetables)

Market Manila's discussion of this dish rightly notes that, for such a comfort food, "[o]ne shouldn’t really have a recipe...rather it is done by mood and feel and available ingredients." Nevertheless, I like having jumping off points. A quick Googling revealed a wide variety of recipes - including one with oyster sauce and ginger - but I decided to stick with the basics. The recipe below is based off this one - how could I resist an entire head of garlic to start with? It's now cooling on my stove, and both John and I agree that it tastes good - deep, almost creamy with a tang given to it by the fish sauce. Next time, I think I'll add some peas and more chicken (I only had 1.8 lbs. vs. the recommended 2.2). I'll probably throw in some bay leaves, too.
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium head garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 small tomatoes, sliced (may use more next time)
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin-on
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. patis (or more to taste)
  • 5 medium potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 3-5 medium carrots, cut about the same size as the potatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic till softening, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken and slightly brown, 4-7 minutes. Remove from pot; add tomatoes and saute till soft - 2-4 minutes. Return chicken to pot. (This came to pass because I forgot about the tomatoes; I assume it's fine to saute them along with the onion and garlic.)

Add tomato sauce, stock and patis. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 or so minutes, till chicken is almost done.

Add carrots and potatoes to pot. Cook till almost done - 10-15 minutes or so.

Add peppers to pot. Cook till slightly softened - 3-5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, then serve with lots of white rice.

Today's Bento

While today's food wasn't carted to work in Mr. Bento, I'm using the term to denote a packed lunch for ease of tagging. It consisted of a can of Amy's minestrone, a banana, some couscous with scallions, and boiled sausages with a small container of sili suka (aka spicy vinegar). Note to self: next time, chop up a few handfuls of spinach and add them to the couscous, or throw in some frozen peas and carrots with the grains.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Comfort Drinks: The Hot Tea Toddy

I've been home sick the past couple of days and relying heavily on the Holy Trinity of cold sufferers: ginger, lemon and honey. The first I've gotten via a large pot of chicken tinola, which I've been eating over the past day and a half with garlic steamed rice. The last two have come via tea and this nighttime version, a riff on the usual hot toddy.
  • 6 oz. water
  • 1 teabag (I used camomile, like Peter Rabbit's mom, then switched to Sleepytime when I ran out)
  • 1 oz. whiskey or bourbon (Evan Williams was fine)
  • honey (1-1/2 to 2 tsp. for me)
  • lemon juice (2 or so tsp. for me)
Boil water. Pour into mug and add teabag. Steep teabag for a few minutes.

Add spirits, honey and lemon juice; correct seasonings if necessary.

NOTE: Tip of the hat to John, who broke his too-long silence by posting the recipe to these wonderful bread-and-butter pickles we - well, strictly he, as I was still at work during the process - made.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It Started With a Mixx: Sinigang Na Baboy (Sour Pork Soup)

Instead of trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop, I'm trying to balance pre-made soup seasoning with from-scratch flavor. Plus, I haven't had the familiar old Knorr sinigang mix in years, and am curious to see if the reality lives up to my fond memories.
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5-7 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 small Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. baby back ribs
  • 1 packet Knorr sinigang mix (ended up using a heaping tbsp. more from another packet)
  • 1 lb. green beans (12 oz. this time)
  • 6 oz. spinach, chopped
Put oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic, onions and tomatoes till soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the meat, return to a boil, then simmer till the meat's tender - about an hour, maybe more.

Add contents of soup mix packet; stir to mix well.

Add green beans. Return to a boil and cook for 3-6 minutes, till beans are softer but still crisp.

Add spinach. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

11:30 pm: Turned out to be as strong, flavorful (with a smooth, almost creamy undertone - probably from all the pork fat and marrow) and comforting as I remember. While I'll keep making the from-scratch version (and looking out for tamarinds to try another variant with), I'll certainly treat myself to this now and then.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fried Rice with Saffron, Ginger and Tomatoes

Have never cooked with saffron before, and so couldn't resist adding this recipe (from Serious Eats) to the fried rice chronicles. It turned out a tad too brassy from the healthy dollops of salt and pepper (mistakenly heavy in the case of the latter), but still flavorful and good served cold the next day. Will definitely try it again with a couple of modifications (in parentheses); may also adopt this method of cooking the egg for fried rice.
  • small pinch of saffron (used two)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, pureed
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ginger, minced (used 2-1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (used about 2/3 cup)
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt (will halve this next time)
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper (will actually use this next time - ended up with about 1 tsp.)
  • 3 cups cooked rice, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp. oyster sauce
  • 1/3 cup scallions, chopped
  • soy sauce to taste (skipped this)
Put saffron in a small bowl with 1 tbsp. water. Stir gently, then set aside.
Put 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crack egg into a bowl and whisk in 1 tbsp. water. When skillet's hot, pour in the egg, tilting the pan to spread it so it coats the bottom (like an omelet). Once the egg has set, which should take somewhere between 2-4 minutes, scrape the egg into a bowl and break up into bite-sized pieces.
Pour the rest of the oil into the skillet and turn the heat to high. When it's hot, add the ginger; cook for about 15-30 seconds, stirring often.

Add the saffron water and tomato puree. Cook, stirring often, till most of the water evaporates - about 3-5 minutes.

Add the sliced onions. Cook for one minute.

Add the rice, salt, pepper and oyster sauce. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring to homogenize the mixture.

Add the peas and cooked egg. Stir for another minute.

Add soy sauce to taste and garnish with scallions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

P-p-p-pasta with Pancetta, Pecorino...and Peas

Modded der Bittman's "Pasta with Pancetta and Pecorino" (from the 2nd edition of How to Cook Everything) - where we diverge, the original proportions are in parentheses.
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. pancetta
  • 13.8 oz. whole wheat spaghettini or other long pasta (1 lb.)
  • about 1-2/3 cup frozen peas
  • about 3/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano (1/2 cup)
  • freshly-ground black pepper
Salt a large pot of water and bring it to a boil.

Put the oil and pancetta in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, till the meat's crisp and nicely browned, about 10 mins. Turn off the heat.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water till tender. Drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water (I always forget to do this - fortunately, there wasn't any need this time).

Prepare the peas (mine were frozen, so I just followed the directions on the package).

Toss the pasta with the pancetta and its juices; stir in the cheese and the peas (these dudes were a pain - alternately congregating at the bottom of the pot and hopping out when I tried to distribute them evenly. In the end, I sort of gave up and scooped the recalcitrant ones out to make a sort of topping). Adjust the seasoning, then add the black pepper (a lot of it!) and serve (or pack into Tupperware for tomorrow, in my case).

Infusion: Rosemary Vodka

Having had a positive experience with rosemary simple syrup, I decided to try the recipe detailed in this Chowhound post: two sprigs for 750 ml. and anywhere from 48-72 hours. Those Mason jars I purchased from Peapod are certainly getting a workout!

It's great to have a friendly upstairs neighbor who shares the bounty from her healthy herb garden (if by chance you ever read this, thanks again, Kim!). Though the summer's surged back a bit from last week's chill, that woodsy tang on my fingers smells like fall (and roast lamb).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brassica di Seville: Goi Ga Bap Cai (Vietnamese Chicken Cabbage Salad)

So that seven-plus pound cabbage from a couple of weeks ago? There's still some left after this latest recipe. The salad, courtesy of Wandering Chopsticks, turned out to be a perfect dinner to bring to Nationals Stadium for this year's Opera in the Outfield (a wonderful production of The Barber of Seville, with a deft and assured Lawrence Brownlee as Count Almaviva). The full recipe - including sub-recipes - is reproduced below. Even with a bare 30 minutes to chill, it tasted wonderful - flavorful and filling, with a nicely varied texture.
  • 2 scant cups shredded chicken (I boiled four small thighs; will use more next time)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, sliced very thinly
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup patis
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • juice from 1 and 1/4 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (substituted for 1 chile)
Prepare the hanh dam (Vietnamese vinegared onions). Dissolve 2 tsp. sugar in 1/4 cup of rice vinegar. Add thinly sliced red onion; use more vinegar if need be to cover. Leave for 15 minutes or till onions get soft.

Prepare the nuoc mam cham (Vietnamese fish dipping sauce) - I opted for the spicier version. Mince three cloves of garlic along with the juice of 1 and 1/4 lime, 1/4 cup patis and 2 tbsp. sugar; adjust flavors to taste. Set aside.

Boil the chicken (I did so in about a quart of water with a half a head of smashed garlic, some of which I added to the dipping sauce afterwards, and a chopped onion); set aside.

Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can. Julienne the carrots, then stem and roughly chop the cilantro.

Combine everything - veggies, vinegared onions and dressing - in a bowl and mix. Correct seasoning if necessary.

Chill for at least half an hour, longer if possible, to let flavors meld. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Infusion: Garlic Vodka

Allium über alles, and all that. I decided to double this recipe's proportions and use six lightly crushed, then sliced cloves of garlic for about 750 ml. vodka. They tested it after five days; I'll start checking this weekend in the hopes of having garlicky Bloody Marys for Sunday.

All these infusions are making me miss the Russian Vodka Room (which I was pleased to discover is still open) and its Attitude Adjustment Hours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today's Bento

After yet another week of being spoiled by John's cooking (the week's dinner menu included burgers and Emily's delicious chocolate cream pie; lamb chops, potatoes and salad; and seared salmon with crisp-on-the-outside but creamy, soft, still firm-on-the-inside corn pudding) and becoming too lazy to put together food for the next day, I was determined to be good and pack lunch for most if not all of this week.

Monday was a bit of a cheat, what with the leftover Cap Lounge pizza, a banana and some pistachios. Today, however, marks Mr. Bento's triumphant return to my alley-facing office. He bore within him yet another version of catfish sinegang (see 3rd comment for this variation), rice and some red grapes (not in the same containers, mind). Even with the sauteing step, it was very quick to make (I suppose it helped that I had pre-trimmed green beans ready) - started it after we got back from the Nats-Phillies game and finished in plenty of time for a snack and bed.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today's Bento

Leftover tinola (variant detailed in second comment), rice, cherry tomatoes and Laughing Cow babybels.

John has been making dinner for us lately. Last week's fare included chicken with BBQ sauce and baked potatoes (another good use of the chives in our front yard); turkey burgers with onions, leftover salad greens and more BBQ sauce; and a lovely, light but filling caprese salad to begin the weekend. Now if only he'd note down some of his recipes....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pesang Manok (Boiled Chicken Soup)

Had a couple of inches of ginger and some softening celery to use up, so I figured I'd order a cabbage and some chicken thighs and make some boiled chicken soup, Filipino-style. Now, I've almost eaten all the soup, but I still have more cabbage than I know what to do with - this monster weighed over seven pounds! (See what can happen when you order produce, sight unseen, from Peapod?) This can result in a dish that's fairly bland on its own, but comforting and delicious when served with a dish of fish sauce on the side. Took Market Manila's suggestion and browned the chicken first, which helped deepen the broth a wee bit.
  • 1 tbsp. or so peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2"-3" in. ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 lbs. chicken (I used thighs)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns (next time, I'll use more)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 3-4" lengths (used more as I had a bag to get rid of)
  • 1 small cabbage, roughly chopped (about 1/4 of that monstrous head)
In a pot large enough to hold all the soup ingredients, saute the ginger and onion till they release their aromas, about 1-3 mins.

Add the chicken. Brown slightly on both sides, about 3-5 minutes/side.

Add the water, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook till chicken's almost tender, 20 or so mins.

Add the celery, wait a few minutes, then add the cabbage. Cook till the veggies are tender - another 5-10 minutes.

Serve over white rice with patis and sriracha on the side.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Infusion: Ginger Vodka

The conservative proportions of this CHOW recipe aside, two other websites advocated for 1/2 cup of ginger to 750 ml. of vodka. Since I had a surplus of the root in question, I opted for the latter proportions. We'll see how it turns out in a week or two (or three). There's also this roasted ginger variant that might be fun to try later.

And yes, I have been cooking (and bento-ing). It's just been more of my easy go-to (pasta with sardine-tomato sauce and sausages), though I declared today veggie day and treated myself to a custom Chop't salad that was good enough to eat sans dressing, with just some salt and pepper (tested, but didn't want their red wine vinaigrette to go to waste): spinach with crumbled hard-boiled egg, red onions, white mushrooms, smoked bacon, artichoke hearts and grilled asparagus.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Drinking: Mockquavit

While in Portland, I had a delicate, fresh-tasting version of a Bloody Mary - Pazzo's Bloody Dane (PDF warning): a combination of cucumber-infused Aquavit, tomato juice water, lemon and fresh dill. Alas, the local store didn't have any Aquavit, but this About.com post on infusing vodka inspired me to create an infused approximation. And now, finally, my third-ever attempt at infusion is ready - not quite as subtle and clean as the cucumber-infused Aquavit, but summery nonetheless.

Next time, I may invest in a wide-mouthed jar - I would have liked to strain and mash some more flavored spirits out of everything.

Herewith, my version of the recipe:
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of vodka (I used plain Svedka)
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1-2 heaping tbsp. ginger, julienned
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • peel from 1/2 lemon
Stuff everything in the vodka bottle. Close the lid and keep the bottle in a cool, dark place for at least 1-2 weeks.

Taste periodically. When the flavor's to your liking (I bottled it on July 20 and, after one too-early taste test, finally deemed it ready today), strain the vodka through double layers of cheesecloth into another container.

Keep in the freezer and serve chilled.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Catfish Sinigang 2: Rhubarb

Made this recipe, sans leafy greens and substituting 5 stalks of rhubarb for the lemon, the day before yesterday. Didn't use enough, at least for my tastes - while the rhubarb did add a nice, subtle tartness to the soup, it wasn't quite the strong sourness I was looking for. Still very tasty, though - tester #1 concurs.

Cut rhubarb into 4-inch lengths. Boil in three cups of water for 15 minutes or until tender.

Remove from water. Strain and mash with a spoon to release additional liquid into the water.

Add green beans, onion and tomato and proceed as usual.

Summer Drinking: Mint "Limonata"

First made these a couple of weeks ago, but kept forgetting to add the recipe (from CHOW). Substituted San Pellegrino for the soda water. Raves all around - a good combination of effervescence, sweetness and tartness (next time, I may add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to increase this).
  • Crushed ice (we didn't have any, alas)
  • 2 oz limoncello
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 2 oz. soda water (used San Pellegrino mineral water instead)
  • 2-3 medium mint leaves, torn in half
Put ice in a shaker-type container. Add limoncello and vodka; shake to combine.

Add soda water/sparkling mineral water to shaker and stir to combine. Pour into a rocks glass and serve topped with the torn mint leaves.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tomorrow's Bento: Couscous and Snozzages

This variant on couscous with basil, tomatoes and zucchini made just enough for lunch for both me and John. In deference to his ailing plant, I did away with the basil; I also halved the couscous and oil, but kept all other proportions the same. Win-win: fridge cleared of perishables, and delicious, healthy noms for tomorrow made. It's also a one-container meal - which is handy, since I won't have to drag Mr. Bento to the Los Campesinos! concert tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chicken Adobo, Part 3

Tried the Bittman (2nd ed.) version this time - with rich, silky, decadent gata (coconut milk), to be fair, and broiling the chicken into crispy deliciousness, so it's hardly fair to the other recipes. Will try each again, replicating at least the latter step.

The sauce turned out to be rich but extremely salty; to be fair, the chicken tasted fine, as did judicious application of the sauce on rice. I may try this again with a low-sodium soy sauce, though (used normal Kikkoman this time), or with a soy sauce-water mix.

Eater review: "Simple, savory. As satisfying as any meal I've had in recent memory. I would recreate this, if I were able, on my own in an instant."
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cup coconut milk (used a can of Taste of Thai)
  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs., trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces (used 4 whole legs)
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper, bay leaves and half of the coconut milk in a pot large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the chicken. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, turning once or twice, till the chicken is almost done (20-25 min).

Heat oven to 450. Remove the chicken pieces from the liquid and dry them with paper towels. Grill, boil or roast the chicken till it's brown, crisp and hot (about 15-25 min.), turning as necessary.

Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a boil, adding the remaining coconut milk, over high heat, till it's reduced to about a cup (I love sauce, so went for a cup and a half).

Serve the chicken with the sauce over rice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Market Sunday

Note to self: never shop at Eastern Market right after the gym, especially if you have no companion to help keep you in control. Got some lovely Big Boy tomatoes to have with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar, and some really sweet peaches to have with sparkling wine. Also acquired a few organic chicken legs for yet another adobo recipe (with gata [coconut milk] this time?), some green beans that may be turned into a cold salad, and some rhubarb that may become a simple syrup, a daiquiri ingredient or a souring agent in a sinegang variant. Oh, and a pint of marinaded mushrooms that are mostly gone.

Tonight's Dinner

Whole-wheat spaghettini with a variant on my sardine and tomato sauce: added 4 minced anchovies with the onion and garlic. Yum!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hainanese Chicken with Rice, Bittman Style

Followed the recipe for the most part - variations in italics, though I didn't include the alternate pan-cooking of the rice and just went straight to the cooker. Decided to not halve the broth recipe because I'm doing close enough to the full measure of rice (in the cooker) and want the delicious chicken juices for other recipes. My variations in parentheses and italics, just cos that's the way I roll. Apropos of nothing, I'm having way too much fun watching Colbert and listening to John and Bradley debate the fine points of ambush journalism as I type this.
  • one 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces (2 lbs. of thighs, which is 4 of them)
  • 3 tbsp. garlic, roughly chopped and divided (4 tbsp.)
  • 5 slices fresh ginger, smashed (10)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil (1/8)
  • 2 cups rice (a scant 2c.)
  • 2 tbsp. dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup ginger-scallion sauce (recipe follows below)
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • chopped fresh scallion and/or cilantro
Rub the chicken with the salt and half of the garlic and ginger (I also slipped some garlic and ginger underneath the skin). Meanwhile, boil 4 cups of water in a large pot. When the water boils, put the chicken in the pot; it should be barely submerged (add or subtract more water as necessary, then make sure it's boiling). Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes (I cooked for 15, but those thighs were fat). Turn off the heat and keep the chicken in the water for at least 1 hour, covered. The meat should be opaque all the way to the bone - if it isn't, return to a boil and cook for another 5 minutes.

Leave the chicken be, or remove it from the stock, whichever you prefer.

Put the neutral oil in a skillet over medim heat. When it's hot, add the remaining garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, till the garlic begins to brown (3-4 minutes).

Pour the oil-garlic-ginger mixture into your rice cooker. Add the rice and enough broth from the chicken (it was about 3-1/4 cups for me), and start cooking.

Carve the chicken however you wish (with or without bones), then rub with dark sesame oil. Serve as you choose - Bittman advocates drizzling some of the sauce over the chicken and serving it over the rice with the tomato and cucumber, while I am probably going to pack it straight into my Bento and keep the sauce in tiny Tupperwares on the side.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce (again from Bittman, with variations in italics)

While this sauce is lovely on its own, the accidental addition of some red pepper flakes worked well.
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup scallions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (I used peanut)
Mix the first five ingredients together in a heatproof bowl.

In a pan, heat the oil over high till it smokes. Pour the oil over the ginger-scallion mixture, mix well, and serve or store.

Tonight's Dinner - The Fried Rice Chronicles, Vol. 3

Leftovers, ho! While, sadly, I ate the green beans before remembering that fried rice was an option, the tuna and a nearly-dead shallot were welcome additions. Skipped the egg this time.
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1 heaping tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 heaping tbsp. scallion, chopped, plus some minced scallion for garnish
  • 1 tsp. shallot, chopped
  • 1-1/2-2 cups day-old rice, mashed and de-clumpified (a fork works well)
  • 3 or so oz. leftover seared tuna, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place oil in a skillet or pan, preferably nonstick, then turn the heat to high. Wait a minute or so, then add garlic, ginger, scallions and shallots. Cook, stirring almost constantly, for about a minute.

Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add the rice, de-clumping with your hands if you haven't already. Stir often for 1-2 minutes.

Add the chopped tuna and stir until no longer red. Add the soy sauce and stir till it's incorporated into the rice. Correct seasoning.

Garnish with scallions and serve.

Now that that's all in my belly, let's see if I actually get around to cooking my chicken or succumb to satiation and/or food coma.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Today's Bento

Double helpings of garlic steamed rice (#3 here) and catfish sinegang (to which I added a couple of banana peppers from Eastern Market).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Green Beans with Shallots

It's stormy outside right now, but we're full and happy and watching the Bosox-Orioles game. This recipe is part of a lovely, Eastern Market-provided meal of green beans (original and mostly-followed recipe here), seared tuna steaks (marinaded in soy sauce and lemon juice, as per the Bittman) and boiled corn on the cob.
  • about 3/4-1 lb. green beans, trimmed (we got these and two ears of corn in a variety bag for $3, so not sure exactly how much we had)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for about 4 minutes or till they're crisp-tender. Drain them, shock then in cold water, then set them aside.

Over medium heat, saute the shallots in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the green beans, turn the heat to high and cook for 2-4 minutes more, until the beans are done to your liking (we like ours on the crispy side, so we were closer to the 2-minute mark).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bittman: 101 Simple Salads for the Season

Here. Love his lists; will have to find and put up past ones for reference (probably in this post).

Couscous Salad with Basil, Tomatoes and Zucchini

Took a long weekend to recover from a Portland (Ore.) business trip, but started cooking again. Wanted to make something light and refreshing for the ballgame (much to our delight, the Nats beat the Mets 4-0 in a complete-game shutout), and this worked nicely (didn't have time to cool it before the game, but it still tasted good). Tastes even better today, after a night in the fridge. Bonus: John's basil plant needed trimming anyway. Original recipe from the back of a Near East couscous box; variations in italics.
  • 1 package Near East plain couscous (about 4-1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes (I used about a cup of grape tomatoes), chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, sliced into strips
  • 1/3 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half then thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1-2 cups boiled, sliced sausages or more to taste
Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add couscous and pepper. Cover, remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes.

Put couscous in a large bowl. Mix with olive oil and lemon juice. Add tomatoes, basil leaves, scallions and zucchini. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Top with feta cheese and sausage slices.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rhubarb-Rosemary Daiquiri

I'm not normally a fan of sweet drinks, but this recipe seemed intriguing (and my last experiment with rhubarb turned out well). It was a perfect lounge-in-the-park drink for the July 4th weekend - sweet but not cloyingly so, with the woodsy taste of the rosemary and the sharp tang of the lemon adding levels of complexity. (Thanks, idogcow!)
  • 2 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup rosemary leaves
  • 3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
  • 6 tbsp. lemon juice, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups white rum
Bring 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons sugar to a simmer, stirring often. Remove from heat; add 1/2 cup rosemary leaves. Let steep 5 minutes. Strain, pressing on rosemary; discard rosemary. Let cool 1 hour.

Place rhubarb, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 1/4 cups water, and 1/2 cup sugar in blender. Process until coarse puree forms. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into medium bowl. Use your hands & squeeze rhubarb pulp to release as much liquid as possible through sieve; discard pulp. Cover and chill rosemary syrup and rhubarb juice separately at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. [Note: The longer steeping time really does help - the rhubarb mixture developed a deeper, more complex flavor.]

Mix rosemary syrup, rhubarb juice, remaining 5 tablespoons lemon juice, and rum in pitcher. Serve over ice, garnished with rosemary sprigs and lemon twists.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tomorrow's Bento

I've not been as remiss with the cooking as it may seem. For one thing, John has been doing a lot of cooking for us lately, including a lovely chicken dish with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, basil and orzo and a delicious by-the-Bittman bolognese sauce just a couple of days ago. For another, I've been mostly repeating old standards or rushing through too-simple-to-be-written-up dishes. Not that these are excuses.

At any rate, here are the contents of tomorrow's Mr. Bento, from top to bottom:
  1. Cherry tomatoes with Laughing Cow cheese wheels
  2. Artichoke hearts sauteed with garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper flakes (next time, I'll add more garlic, dry the [canned] 'chokes more thoroughly and try to get a bit more caramelization going)
  3. Garlic steamed rice (a new favorite: When making rice with a rice cooker, add a small head of garlic - this particular time I used about 9 cloves, peeled and crushed but not minced - to the rice and water, then cook as normal. The rice around the garlic develops a faint tinge of sweetness, and the cloves themselves remain whole but can be mashed wonderfully into the rest of it)
  4. Boiled sausages with spicy suka (Filipino cane vinegar infused with garlic and chiles)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mutant "Minestrone"

For the record: I have been cooking, albeit mostly repeating old recipes and sometimes being too lazy to update.

I've become addicted to Annie's Organics Minestrone (despite its deplorable lack of animal protein), and so resolved to make some minestrone of my own. Alas, things didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned: the term minestrone is in scare quotes because had to make do without things like a mirepoix or fresh herb; also, the current proportions are more familiar as pasta sauce or tomato-garlic soup. So far, the resultant concoction on my stove tastes fine, but could taste better. Meh as it may be, here it is for my records and to build on.

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 oz. proscuitto
  • 1 medium-sized potato, cubed
  • 1 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed or chopped
  • 1 14 oz. can kidney beans
  • 1 can shoepeg corn
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat till onion is soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add proscuitto and saute for 3-5 more minutes.

Add potato, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Stir for one minute more.

Turn heat to high. Add tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer for about 15-25 minutes, when tomatoes have started to break down. (At this point, I also threw in 2 cubes of sugar because it was too sour without the counteracting notes of the celery and carrot).

Add kidney beans. Return to a boil, then to a simmer. Add corn 5 minutes before everything's done.

Will wait for this to age a bit before figuring out what I want to do with it. Seems certainly good enough to eat while watching the NYY-NYM game tonight, though, and to take to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chicken Adobo, Part II

This is the second in a series of cook-by-the-book attempts to establish a new adobo baseline recipe. It's taken from Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad. I've never used sugar in an adobo recipe before, but now I see the advantages to it - this iteration tasted wonderfully complex even without the browning and before being stored for the night.

Future mods? More garlic, maybe a bit more sugar. And definitely some chicken livers. Had some gizzards but figured I'd save them for a night when I'd more time to cook.
  • 1-1/2 lb. chicken legs (with some of the backbone and delicious kidneys)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper (approximated several grinds)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (2 lumps)
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients but the oil in a pot and let stand for at least 30 minutes, turning the chicken now and then.

Bring to a boil, then simmer till the chicken's tender (about 30-45 minutes - could have been done sooner, but Colbert's first Iraq episode was on so I let it ride).

[Didn't do this part, but intend to next time.] Reserve sauce. Brown chicken in vegetable oil, then move to plate.

Pour off some oil if you wish, then add sauce to the pan. Raise heat and stir until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.

Serve with chicken over white rice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pasta with Sardine and Tomato Sauce

This is for tomorrow's Mr. Bento. While I do value my protein, it was sad to open and use an entire tin of sardines unmolested, sans little paws batting at my calves and loud demands for compliance with the household fish tax.

While Bittman, whose basic tomato sauce recipe this is very loosely based on, claims that this is enough for a pound of pasta, I like a lot of sauce, and so figure it's good for about 1/2-3/4 lb.
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 4.25 oz. can of sardines in tomato sauce
  • 1 28-oz. can of tomatoes (San Marzano in this case)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
Salt a pot of water, bring it to a boil and cook anywhere from 1/2-1 lb. of your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat rotini). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil, the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes in a large pan or skillet over medium heat till the onions are translucent and the garlic's golden (3-5 minutes).

Mash up the sardines and add them to the pan. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 2-5 minutes, till they dry up a bit and release their smell.

Crush the tomatoes (I use my hands) and add them to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, till the tomatoes break down and become saucy (10-15 minutes or so). Add some of the liquid from the can of tomatoes if the mixture starts to seem too dry.

Correct seasoning and remove from heat. Stir in the last tbsp. of olive oil, then toss with your pasta.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chicken Thighs with Soy Sauce and Lemon

Yesterday was the first time I'd cooked since my cat died (R.I.P. Bunnicat, 1995-2009). As do most braises, it tasted good the night of, even better the day after - and it will taste even better tomorrow. It will also always remind me of Bun. Despite the still-unfamiliar silence (no more soft splash of her fountain; no more querulous meows), I had to remind myself not to set aside a little portion of chicken for her each time I packed my lunch. Alas, my mise en place/condiment bowls are now merely those again; they no longer double as amuse bouche plates for my furry food critic. I miss you, anak.

This recipe's based on one in the first edition of Bittman; any deviations from the original are in italics.
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs (orig. 2 lbs.)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic (orig. 1 tsp.)
  • 1 scant tbsp. grated lemon zest (orig. 1 tbsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar (omitted this)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 3-1/2 tbsp.)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the oil, swirl, then add the chicken. Brown quickly - about 2-3 minutes per side.

Turn off the heat. Remove the chicken and all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Let the pan cool for a minute or two, then turn the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, till it softens, about 1-2 minutes.

Add everything else but the lemon juice; stir. Return the chicken to the skillet; turn it once or twice in the liquid. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, turning once or twice, till chicken is done (anywhere from 20-40 minutes, though admittedly I went long because a new episode of "No Reservations" was on).

Add the lemon juice to the broth and stir. Serve with white rice.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spaghetti with Leeks and Tomatoes

Behold - a spare bunch of leeks! At first I considered a riff on spaghetti with ramps, but realized the leeks would have to cook significantly longer. Ended up making a delicious variant on this Bittman recipe. Major changes: halved the amount of pasta (because I never seem to have enough veggies when I follow these types of recipes), added a shallot (because I have scads available) and omitted the parsley (didn't have any). Yum nonetheless - even cold, when I brought some leftovers for lunch and was too lazy and hungry to heat them. May add pancetta (as in this recipe) next time, too - it'll probably contrast nicely with the sweet vegetables.
  • 3 large leeks - trimmed, cleaned, halved and chopped (not too finely)
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil or butter (used the former this time)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • about 1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
Put 2 tbsp. olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for about a minute (just till it begins to brown), then remove it. Add the leeks and red pepper flakes; saute the leeks, stirring now and then, till they wilt (about 7-10 minutes).

Lower the heat to medium and add tomatoes. Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, till leeks begin to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta till tender then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta liquid. Toss the pasta, leek mixture and remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, adding some of the pasta water if the sauce seems too dry (mine didn't need any). Correct seasoning and serve.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chicken Adobo, Part I

Recently, I realized that I haven't made adobo in months. In an attempt to earn back my Pinoy card (and use up the chicken thighs in the freezer), I decided to remedy that. Alas, it's been long enough that I've forgotten the proportions of my "baseline" recipe; on the brighter side, this gives me an excuse to experiment with different ones. So, herewith - and just barely beating out Bittman's version, because the idea of a new vinegar picqued my curiosity, is my take on the venerable Burnt Lumpia's chicken adobo.

In retrospect? I would have marinaded, added a bit more garlic and browned the chicken after, not before, for maximum skin crispage. But hey - it was a weekday, and I wanted something fairly low-maintenance.
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 7 cloves garlic (about 1-1/2 heaping tbsp.), minced
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 heaping tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
Put oil in a skillet large enough to hold the chicken pieces in one layer; turn heat to medium and wait till oil shimmers. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and brown (about 5-7 minutes); turn, then brown the other side (another 5-7 minutes).

Remove chicken and place in a bowl. Pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the drippings. Turn the heat to low and saute the garlic till it's light brown and fragrant (about 1-3 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the liquids, making sure to scrape with a wooden spoon.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up; add any accumulated juices, too. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, and play Xbo mess around onl- be productive for 25-45 minutes, or till chicken is tender.

Remove chicken and reserve. Turn heat to medium-high and reduce sauce to desired consistency, stirring often and correcting seasoning if necessary.

Return chicken to pan, remove from heat, and serve with white rice, drizzling sauce over both.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Black Beans

I keep forgetting how cheap, convenient (and fast, when canned!), nutritious and nummy beans can be. As usual, very roughly based on a recipe in Bittman v2.
  • 1 15.oz can black beans (reserve the liquid)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped or crushed (used some aging grape maters this time)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. cumin (I'll probably use more next time, though)
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (didn't do this during the current iteration - thank FSM, cos even 1/4 tsp. may be too hot for some)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 heaping tbsp. garlic, minced (or more to taste)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 cup red wine (used chicken stock)
  • 2 scallions, chopped (for garnish)
Put beans, tomatoes and the bean liquid in a small pot. Season with bay leaf, cumin, cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes, while you prepare the next step.

Put the oil in a skillet; turn the heat to medium. Cook the onions about 10 minutes or till they're tender. Then, add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Add to the bean mixture.

At this point, Bittman advocates putting the wine in the skillet and cooking it down for 5 or so minutes. I messed up and added the liquid to the bean-tomato and onion-garlic mixture instead. Fortunately, 5 or so minutes of boiling evaporated most of it and did not leave a bland mush.

Serve over white rice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

French 75

The weekend was warm and sunny, and so - though the ground was still damp - my thoughts turned immediately to summery cocktails. This one (via CHOW) sounded good, though expediency led me to use the recipe in the comments (reproduced below) instead of the main one. They turned out well, if rather undistinguished; I suspect they'll become more of a favorite as the weather warms and the garden patch needs additional tending. Next time, I'll probably try the bitters-and-sugar cube version, too - that might add a bit more character to it.
  • 4 oz. champagne or sparkling wine
  • 1/4 oz. gin (Tanqueray was fine)
  • 1/4 0z. Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Combine everything in a glass. Stir, and serve (orange rind garnish optional).

Bolognese-Style Meat Sauce

Way too many of my recent recipes have been inspired partially by the need to use up a gigantic bunch of celery. This one (actually cooked last week, but I got lazy and didn't bother typing it up till now) is based on the one in the first edition of Bittman; my changes are in italics (note too that my stove seems to heat up more slowly than his - cooking times have been amended accordingly).
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 large onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 3 oz. pancetta (alt. 1/4 cup), minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (alt. 1/2 lb. beef, 1/2 lb. veal)
  • 1 28-oz. can tomatoes, juice reserved
  • 3/4 cup juice from tomatoes (alt. white wine)
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup milk
  • grated Parmesan
Put olive oil in large pot. Turn heat to medium-low. After a minute, add the onion, carrot, celery and pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the ground meat. Cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps, till all traces of red are gone (about 5-10 minutes).

Raise the heat a little. Add the tomato juice and cook, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid's evaporated (about 5-10 minutes).

Crush the tomatoes and add them to the pot; stir, then add the stock. Turn the heat to low and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps. After an hour or so, season with salt and pepper.

Cook for at least another hour (more like 1-1/2 or 2 hours more in my case), till much of the liquid has evaporated. At this point, you can take the sauce off the heat and freeze or refrigerate for a while. If you're doing this, reheat it before going to the next step.

Add the milk and cook for another 15-30 minutes (didn't actually do this, as the sauce was rich and milky enough without - and well, more to the point, as I wanted to maximize storage time), stirring occasionally. Correct seasoning. Serve with pasta (or rice!) and grated Parmesan to taste.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chicken Soup - Or Is It Braised Veg?

Another one of those "let's clean out as much of the fridge as possible" meals. First step is making a stock based on Bittman's "Quickest Chicken Stock." Once that's done, I get to continue.
  • about 6-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 large leeks, washed and chopped into 1" lengths (quarter the large ones, halve the smaller ones)
  • half a cabbage, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • meat from 4 chicken thighs, removed from bone and shredded
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Normally, I'd saute the vegetables in 2 tbsp. butter for a few minutes or till soft, but I'm too lazy right now.

Put broth in a large pot. Add vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, till vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Add chicken meat. Correct seasoning.

11:03 pm: Barely enough broth for the leeks, let alone everything else. Added a cup of prefab stock, stuffed the poor Dutch oven to the brim with the cabbage, set it to a boil, turned the heat to med-low, and am curious to see how it will all turn out. Could this be a fail?

Apr. 15, 4:46 pm: Ended up turning off the heat after 20 minutes, covering the pot (a heavy Dutch oven) and letting it sit for half an hour more before cooling and storing. Turned out pretty well - if too light on the broth - but I'll probably put it on the stove for another 10 minutes or so tonight to get the cabbage and carrot just a bit more tender. And next time, I'll start working on some semblance of a solid-liquid ratio for my soups (something that, alas, Ruhlman does not cover in his new book Ratio).

Quick Chicken Stock

This recipe's based on Bittman and, in this particular case, modified to include some ginger that was getting soggy and to disinclude some parsley that I didn't have. We'll see how it turns out.
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 small onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 small stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3-4 in. knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 7 cups water
Throw everything in a large pot and bring just about to a boil.

Partially cover the pot, and reduce heat so the liquid's very gently bubbling. Cook for 30-40 minutes, till chicken is done.

Remove thighs; debone and reserve meat. (Actually, at 40 mins., the stock was still kind of meh, so I took the meat off the bones and reserved it, then threw the bones back in the pot for another 20 mins. Let's see how it goes.)

Strain the stock, pressing down hard with a wooden spoon or something similar to extract the maximum amount of juice from the veggie solids.

Freeze or use stock and chicken (will be doing the latter with both, presently).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Say Puchero, I Say Pochero (Filipino Beef Stew)

This took quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, and was a bit more complicated than I wanted dinner to be, but turned out wonderfully. And, as it's a stew (albeit a very soupy one, as I used all the delicious broth), I expect it will taste even better tomorrow. It's based on two recipes - one from Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad, and the other from this website - and the usual impulse to use up the greatest number of perishables. Would have rather gotten shanks instead of supermarket-style stew beef cubes, but EM was closed, alas.
  • 1.75 lbs. stew beef, cut into inch-square cubes
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 medium onions - 1 sliced,1 chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic - 4 crushed, 3 minced
  • 3 celery stems - 2 cut into 4 in. lengths, one chopped (will probably leave out the chopped portion next time)
  • 2 chorizos or 4 oz. spicy pepperoni (used the latter since I didn't have any chorizo handy)
  • 1 14-oz. can of tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz. can of chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1/2 head medium cabbage, quartered
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1-2 in. chunks
  • 6 scallions, cut into 2-in. lengths
Place the beef, peppercorns, salt, sliced onion, crushed garlic and 2 celery stems in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water (about 4 cups in this case). Bring to a boil then simmer till the beef is tender - anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2 hours. (The recipe to this point makes a nice, tasty beef broth that I'll be using as a base in the future, especially for nilagang baka [beef soup].) Add the chorizo or pepperoni 30 min. before you finish cooking this part.

Place the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the chopped onion and garlic for a few minutes, till the onion turns translucent. Add the tomatoes - crushing or chopping them, as is your preference - and cook till the mixture turns saucy for about 5 minutes (if you're more patient than I was at this point, you can cook them for another 5-10 minutes or so, till they break down and turn saucy). Add the chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes.

Once the beef is tender and the chorizo/pepperoni has cooked, add the potatoes, chopped carrots and chopped celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the cabbage. Cook for about 10 minutes more or till the vegetables are tender but still have bite to them.

Add the tomato mixture to the large pot. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or two. Correct seasoning.

Remove from heat, add the scallions and cover. Wait 5 minutes, then serve over white rice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Riff on Bittman's "Anti-Ramen" Soy Broth

Being home sick today meant scarfing up all of yesterday's soup well before dinnertime. So, I decided to try a variation on Bittman's "anti-ramen": "Egg Noodles in Soy Broth." Despite a misstep and a few varations (reproduced in the recipe below for posterity and further experimentation), the broth's incredibly rich and flavorful, especially for something meatless. It's also the inspiration for the new "comfort food" tag.
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/6 cup ketchup (I use a HFCS-free organic store brand)
  • 1/6 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. mirin (whoops - picked up the wrong bottle)
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar (to make up for the mirin)
  • 1 hefty squeeze of sriracha
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 potato, diced (had to use up leftovers)
  • 3 baby bok choy, chopped, stems and leaves separated
  • 2 scallions, chopped (for garnish)
Put water, ketchup, soy sauce, mirin, white vinegar and garlic cloves in a pot. Add potato and baby bok choy stems. Bring to a boil, then simmer till potato is nearly cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

Add baby bok choy leaves. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, correct seasoning, then serve with noodles or (in this particular case) over day-old rice, garnishing with scallions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Potato and Leek Soup

My tag cloud is making me want to vary my cooking habits somewhat, so I acquired a big bag of potatoes from Peapod this weekend and came home early tonight in order to get some cooking in. After taking an ingredient inventory, I figured the best way to use up the largest number of perishables would be to cook some chicken stock from scratch (4 cups water, 4 chicken wings, 1 large celery stalk, 1 medium carrot, 2 small onions, about 1 tsp of peppercorns plus salt and pepper to taste, brought to a boil then simmered for 30-40 minutes), then strain it into the recipe below to make a standard potato and leek soup.
  • 3 medium-to-large leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 large potatoes, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 tsbp. butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
Put the butter in a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat. When it's melted, add the leeks and potatoes. Stir for a few minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Simmer till vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Puree if you like. Correct seasoning and serve.

NOTE: I overcooked the potatoes a bit - they're still solid, but soft and without the slight bite I like - and so will probably puree some of the soup instead of leaving it be.

Poached Catfish with Ginger and Soy Sauce

This is one of my go-to recipes for catfish (which, as the tag cloud informs me, I eat more of than I thought): simple, quick and delicious. I can't recall if it's in the revised Bittman, but it's certainly in the first. Original recipe below, with my changes in italics:
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced (original: 1)
  • 5 tbsp. minced or grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup water (broth works, too)
  • 1/4 cup slightly diluted dry vermouth (didn't have any white wine, as per the original)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. catfish fillets
  • 2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium. Add the garlic and ginger and saute till the garlic begins to color. (NOTE: Bittman reserves 1 tbsp. of ginger for garnish at the end. I didn't.)

Add the liquid and turn the heat to high. Boil till the liquid's been reduced by about half - this should only take a couple of minutes. Season to taste.

Turn the heat back to medium and add the catfish. Cover and cook till fillets are no longer translucent - about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Asadong Manok (Tangy Chicken Stew)

Last night, I was looking for a low-maintenance chicken recipe that would minimize prep and at-stove time while maximizing flavor and Fallout 3: The Pitt-playing. We had everything needed for this simple but flavorful chicken stew (original recipe from Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad; my version - which increases the amount of garlic, tomatoes and vinegar relative to the amount of chicken - below):
  • 1-1/2-2 lbs. chicken thighs or other assorted parts
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (prefer cane, used plain white since that's all I had)
  • 4-6 plump cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil (I used peanut oil in this case)
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 14. oz. can tomatoes, drained and crushed
  • 1 cup water - produces lots and lots of sauce (original recipe has 1 cup of water for 3-4 lbs. of chicken)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
Marinade the chicken with the vinegar and garlic for at least 30 minutes.

Place the oil in a skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and onions, then saute till the former are mushy (4-7 minutes).

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and add it to the pot. Saute, turning the chicken pieces now and then, till the meat colors slightly (5-10 minutes).

Add the reserved marinade, water, bay leaf and paprika to the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes, until chicken is tender.

Correct seasoning and serve over white rice.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Minimalist Tomato-Garlic Soup

My tummy wasn't very happy, and I wanted a quick, satisfying soup that wasn't too rich. The revised How to Cook Everything offered a simple base recipe called "Boiled Water." It seemed like it would produce watery tomato sauce, but I gave it a try - and voila, reason #4,313 not to doubt the Bittman. Though my simplified version (below) didn't turn out quite as quickly as his, it was surprisingly flavorful and satisfying. The main differences between the recipe below and his are: more garlic, a bit more tomato and some Memmi (a stand in for the soy sauce that seems to have gone missing).
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 14. oz. can tomatoes (I use Muir Glen), roughly chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 tsp. Memmi or soy sauce
Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the liquid bubble gently for a while, anywhere from 20-40 minutes (Bittman prefers 15, but I found that everything wasn't nearly broken down enough for my tastes. I waited till the garlic was almost stewed but the tomatoes hadn't completely lost their structural integrity).

Correct seasoning and serve.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linguini with Spinach, Butter and Cream

I had yet another 10 oz. bag of spinach to use up, so I decided to try this recipe (only in the first edition of Bittman). Came out pretty well, but why am I so resistant to learning that 1 lb. of pasta is a TON (figuratively, for sure) of food? Next time, I'll probably add more spinach or decrease the amount of pasta - just as I said I would in the last similar recipe I posted. Ah well.
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, light cream or half-and-half (used the latter)
  • 1 lb. linguini (Bittman also recommends fettucini or spaghetti; I used whole wheat, though he didn't specify one way or another)
  • 2-3 tbsp. pasta cooking water, reserved
  • 1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for passing around (Bittman sticks with 1 cup total)
In a pasta pot-type piece of cookware, salt water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook till it's tender but firm.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet that can be covered. Add the spinach, along with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, till the spinach is very tender - about 10 min. Uncover, add the cream and cook gently for 5 minutes.

When the pasta's just about done, put the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter in a large, warm bowl. Add a couple of tbsp. of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and toss it with the butter and half the cheese.

Add the spinach sauce (After the step above, I tossed the pasta in the pan with the other half of the cheese - Bittman prefers reserving the extra 1/2 cup to pass at the table) and serve, passing around even more grated cheese.

Slow-Cooked Green Beans

Work last week left me no time to cook; now, thanks to the joys that are comp days, I can get back into it at a nice, leisurely pace. This Bittman recipe (which appears in both version of How to Cook Everything) seems a perfect way to use up many of the vegetables that are turning dubious; as a bonus, the long, mostly-uninterrupted cooking time (they're still simmering as I type this) allows ample opportunity to clean, do laundry and get one's heinie handed to oneself in MLB 2K9. The original recipe is below; my alterations are in italics.
  • 1-1/2 lb. green beans (12 oz., because that's how much I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (1/8 cup)
  • 1 cup minced onion (scant 1-1/2 cups, since that's how many at-risk-of-spoiling ones I had)
  • 3/4 head garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled (see note below)
  • 1 cup cored, peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (1 cup chopped, mix of canned and at-risk fresh grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup water (1/3 cup)
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • freshly-squeezed lemon juice to taste (started with about 1 tbsp.)
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for at least 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes and adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Longer cooking, for up to 1 more hour, won't hurt (I can testify to the truth of this - mine cooked for just under 2 hours).

When the beans are very tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, they're ready. Correct seasoning and remove from heat.

Serve or at room temperature, sprinkled with a little more oil and a few more drops of lemon juice.

NOTE: This turned out well, though some of the stewed garlic cloves slipped out of their skin and left hard-to-fish-out husks. Maybe next time I'll peel the garlic and let it diffuse into the dish if it wants to.