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.