Monday, February 28, 2011

A Visitor in the Kitchen Part II: Dessert

Dessert on Display (and me sitting back to enjoy)
      I do not believe that a meal is complete without dessert. My roommate AT asked me yesterday what food I would pick if I could only eat one food for the rest of my life. My answer? Something sweet. I don't think I could live without cakes and cookies and chocolates; my sweet tooth is far larger than my um... love... of healthy living. But, just because I like sweet things, doesn't mean that the desserts I like are always overwhelmingly sweet. The cakes I have made so far are good everyday cakes, the kind you could have for breakfast or with a cup of tea. The cake I am making today falls right into this category, it has the same amount of deliciousness with an extra dash of sophistication.

     What cake is this? Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake. You know, I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and I knew right away that I had to make it. I haven't had an olive oil cake for a long time, and the lovely fragrance of the oil really elevates the homey-ness of loaf cake. Apparently, other people don't feel the same way. People were so confused when I told them what I would be making. Apparently olive oil cakes are not common? Apparently people are not sure what blood oranges are and many people have never had one? I guess I am a foodie after all.

     I was actually almost positive I would be making this cake without the blood oranges because where in the world would I buy blood oranges? Reading Terminal, apparently. It is the best place ever, do not ever come to Philadelphia without visiting it. Anyway, point being, after my little Chinatown trip with PN, we went to Reading Terminal and ate a scrumptious apple dumpling, and I bought more fruits and veggies. And blood oranges! Aren't they just gorgeous?

     Everyone who has not had a blood orange really should. They are milder than regular oranges and generally sweeter, but if you put them in dishes, or make a sauce from them, or just cut them up and then stare at them for a bit, their color alone is worth it.

     Making the cake was tons of fun with Katch around. She took so many amazing pictures I didn't know which ones to choose! We listened to high quality music (Disney songs), and I danced around because that is what I do in the kitchen, and apparently I can't stop myself even when other people are around. I also made up an absolutely delicious sauce using fresh blackberries and the leftover blood orange. Then, once the dancing and the orange cutting and the sauce making was all over, we ate cake!

     It was ridiculously moist, it had that depth of flavor from the olive oil (Katch couldn't taste the oil, so if you have never had an olive oil cake just know the flavor is not overwhelming, it just adds another tone to the cake), and it had that sweet citrus taste. The little orange segments in some of the slices were amazing too, next time I make it I might just add more so I don't have to hunt for them. Though, if hunting always involves eating more pieces of cake till I got to a part with orange segment, so be it. The blackberries also worked amazingly in the sauce, which added a whole new sweet tanginess to my creation. I love dessert, don't you? And definitely look at Katch's blog for her account of cake making:!

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Blackberry Honey Sauce 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

For Cake: 

3 Blood Oranges
1 cup Sugar 
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt 
3 large Eggs 
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour 
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt 
1/4 tsp Baking Soda

     First, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the loaf pan. Next, pour the sugar into a large bowl. Grate the zest from 2 of the oranges and put the zest in the bowl with the sugar. Rub sugar and zest together with your fingers so the zest is distributed throughout the sugar. Then, supreme the two oranges. To supreme: cut the top and the bottom of the orange so that it can stand upright and you can see the fruit inside. Following the curve of the orange, cut the peel and pith away from it. Then, cut the segments of orange out of the connecting membranes and let them fall into a small bowl. Halve the third orange and squeeze its juice into a measuring cup. You need about 1/4 of a cup of juice. Then, add the yogurt to the juice until you have 2/3 cup of liquid together, and mix them. Whisk the mixture into the bowl with the zest and sugar. Then, whisk in the eggs and olive oil. 

     In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gently. Lastly, fold the orange segments into the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake the cake for 50-55 minutes till the top is golden. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then unmold it onto the rack, allowing it to cool right side up for another 10 minutes. Cut, top with sauce, and enjoy!

Blackberry Honey Sauce

1 Blood Orange 
1 small box Blackberries 
2 tbsp Honey 
Black Pepper 

     Halve the blood orange and squeeze its juice into a small saucepan at medium heat. Next, add half of the blackberries to the saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, squish the blackberries against the side of the pan. Alternately, squish them in your hand as you drop them into the saucepan, as I did. Stir in the honey, and allow the sauce to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add a dash of black pepper, and then stir in the rest of the blackberries. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes, and then serve. 


You could really make any sauce to compliment the cake, Smitten Kitchen made a blood orange honey compote. Use what you have on hand! 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Visitor in the Kitchen


     Today we will flash back to the past. Not too long in the past, just to this past Tuesday. Why was this Tuesday special, you might wonder. Well, I had a visitor in the kitchen. Her name is Katch, and she is my supervisor at work. But, more importantly, she is a free-lance photographer! And, after seeing my blog, she suggested taking photographs for it! IT WAS SO EXCITING!!!! Yes, this deserves capitals.

     So, I made some special foods. This will be a two part story because I made two dishes. The first, which I am posting today, was a Coconut Chicken Curry. Generally, I make everyday sorts of curries. They are tomato based or yogurt based, not heavy cream-based like restaurant curries, which is why they are not overwhelmingly thick and rich. This is a kind of compromise. The coconut milk makes it richer than most of my other curries and a great break from the ordinary. This also makes it great for parties!

     Even though creamy chicken is not the most beauteous of foods, Katch manages to make it look so amazing. Yay! Anyway, to get to the cooking. Before we even started, we did have some issues trying to open the can of coconut milk. I knew I had a reason to hate my can opener: it broke instead of opening the can. Luckily, I had other tools at hand. The front of the spoon failed actually, but the back of a spoon is the ultimate weapon!

     This curry might be slightly fancier than my ordinary style, but that does not mean it is any more complicated. I followed my usual pattern of creating a marinade, marinating the chicken, searing it, and then dumping the marinade on top to turn it all into a delicious curry. I told you Indian food was easy.

     So, thank you so so so much to Katch for taking all these gorgeous pictures. You will see more of her amazing work tomorrow! And make sure to visit her blog to see more of her great work. Thank you to her so much! Also, in case I sound abrupt, it's time for the Oscars people!


Coconut Chicken Curry 
Very Loosely Adapted from The Best Ever Curry Cookbook
Makes 4 servings 

1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (or de-bone and de-skin yourself, as I did)
1 can Coconut Milk (14 oz) 
1/2 cup Yogurt 
1 tsp Coriander 
1 tsp Garam Masala 
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder 
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder 
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tbsp of Vegetable Oil 

Chicken Prep: 

Place chicken thighs in a medium bowl filled with water, 1 spoon of sugar, and 1 spoon of salt. Let it brine while gathering other ingredients. Then, trim the excess fat off the chicken thighs and cut it into bite sized (1 inch) cubes. 

Prepare Marinade: 

In a large bowl, mix the coconut milk, yogurt, coriander, garam masala, red chili powder, salt, and ginger powder. Then, add the cubes of chicken. Allow them to marinate for 15 minutes. Then, heat the oil in a large saucepan at medium heat. Shake the marinade off the chicken pieces as you lay them in the pan. Sear them on both sides to seal. Then, pour in the marinade, lower the heat, and simmer for about ten minutes or until the curry is the thickness you desire. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011



     Do you like carrots? I know a couple of people who don't, and I think that must mean they have never tasted a carrot properly. Carrots are like summer: bright and fresh in both look and taste. I love carrots. Carrot Cake is one of the best kinds of cake (and if you have never had the Carrot Cake Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, you should fix that right now) and my favorite Indian dessert is Gujrala (or Gajar ka Halwa..and I don't know how to explain it in English, but it is delicious- except when made at stupid Indian restaurants).

Carrots with their clothes still on
     So, what did I do with carrots today? Well, today started out as a leisurely kind of day. I taught creative writing to children in the morning, studied a little, grocery shopped, started working on an elaborate food that was going to take a long time (you can wait in suspense till tomorrow) and then... I had a realization. I don't own my own camera, did you know? This blog survives through the kindness of my friends: I use my roommate's and PN's cameras, and I always have to use PN's in order to upload pictures onto the computer. But I didn't have it today! She did! And she probably had plans all night! What would I do?

     I did the only thing that made sense. In the hour between when I called her (she was at dinner) and when she would be home for five minutes before leaving again, I prepared a new dish for today. It was a dish I had been wanting to make for a long time, and, luckily, I knew it would be quick. A carrot salad. I had been holding off on making it because all the carrot salads I saw online were Asian and needed vinegar, which I did not want to buy. Then, I talked to my mom about it. She suggested: Carrot, Honey, Lime, and Raisins. I don't really like raisins so I substituted, cashews are kind of like raisins, right?

     And, that is how I ended up making carrot salad before racing to PN's place, downloading the pictures onto this blog, and then racing back to clean up the mess of honey and carrots all over my floor. But, with the first bite, I knew I had been right to crave this. The sweetness of the honey offsets the sourness of the lime, just leaving that bright lime flavor, and the crunch of the carrot offsets the softer cashews. Still, above all is the flavor of the carrots. That bright sunshiney taste in my mouth makes it feel like it's sunny outside. Even if it's not. 

Shiny Shiny from the Honey
Honey-Carrot Salad 

Makes 3 servings 

4 Mid-Sized Carrots 
1/2 tbsp Honey (I would drizzle some on, taste, then drizzle more on- make it as sweet as You want) 
1/2 Lime 
1 handful Cashews 

Wash the carrots and peel them. Then, cut them into thin match-sticks. (I would say julienne, but obviously I did not even try to julienne, so just make them thin.) Place the carrots into a medium bowl and squeeze the lime juice onto them. Add the honey and the cashews, and mix it thoroughly to combine. Enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Balanced Meal

     Today, it took me a very long time to get around to eating. I mean, of course I ate my Fruits and Cream Quaker Oats Oatmeal this morning before class. I promise I'm not an ad, it is just actually what I eat every morning because it is the deliciousest fast breakfast there is. Anyway, of course I ate that. But between having class till 1 and then getting caught in a torrential downpour and having to seek shelter in a friend's house, I did not get around to cooking till 3:30. And then, I decided to cook something that would take an hour and a half. Why? Because I knew it would be worth it. (And I still had some peanut butter bar to eat..)

     It was pork. Do you know that bright red roast pork you get at Chinese take-out restaurants? It was that pork. Just, not bright red because that beautiful color comes from....guess what? Food Coloring. Of course, it would. Also, my pork was not exactly authentic Chinese because it was Yakibuta, the Japanese version of the Chinese Char Siu, from a recipe I found on the lovely site Just Hungry. And, I was all prepared to make this great dish! Last night before work, I filled a bowl full of marinade and dumped the pork in. So, all I needed to do was stick it in the oven, and it would be done. 

     Was it really as simple as that? A bowl of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a star anise, and then just turning on the oven the next day? Yes, yes it was. This is why I love the oven, you can put things in and not worry about them and then suddenly you have a plate of lovely food! Well, I had some intermediate steps of course. To make sure my meal made up for my previous lack of meals, I made rice and bok choy as well. The bok choy was easy. It was just a version of the bok choy I made previously without the garlic, with a little extra ginger, and with some shitake mushrooms thrown in before I started cooking the bok choy. 

     I love my meals nowadays. The pork was ridiculously moist and tender, with that subtle taste of sweetness which I can't seem to find an adjective for except Asian, and that is utterly unworthy of this marinade. I started boiling down the marinade at a low simmer once I put the pork in the oven, and then I used some of it as a sauce for my rice. It was delicious. With the bok choy, finally making me feel a little healthy, this was just a perfect little meal.

Japanese-style Chinese Pork 
Adapted from Just Hungry

1/2 lb Pork Shoulder 
3/4 cup Soy Sauce 
1/2 cup Water 
1 Star Anise
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder (or a small chunk Fresh Ginger) 
1 Garlic Clove, Minced 
1 tsp Sugar

Trim the skin and excess fat off the sides of the piece of pork. Place it in a medium bowl, add the soy sauce, and then enough of the water to fully cover the pork. Add the star anise, ginger powder, and garlic clove and mix it in the soy sauce. Turn the pork a couple of times to make sure it is properly covered. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and place it in the fridge overnight or for at least three hours. When you are ready to cook the pork, pre-heat the oven to 280 degrees. Sprinkle both sides of the pork with sugar. Then, place it in a baking dish with about 1 cm of water. Bake it for about an hour and a half, turning the pork over every half an hour, until you can stick a knife in it and the juices run clear (not red). 


You may have to add more water after an hour or so to keep it at 1 cm. 

I cut the pork into slices to serve. Feel free to cut it into cubes, or small strips, in order to put it in rice, noodles, salad, or whatever else your heart desires. You can also cut it up and then freeze it to have it for later!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Jam. One of the greatest bounties of the Earth.
     So, last night, I told you all about making pho. And, the pho was delicious (I had it again for lunch today). But, as is my wont, by midnight I was getting a little peckish again. I needed my sweet after my meal, and what sweet did I crave? Peanut butter and jelly. Peanut butter and strawberry jam may be one of the best combinations in the world (I'm sure someone disagrees and has some other jam of preference - but its still peanut butter and jam, and that is what is most important).

Making Peanut Butter even More Delicious.
     However, I didn't just want an ordinary PB and J. I wanted something special I had seen on Have Cake Will Travel. I love food blogs, don't you? They make such delightful things and give me so many great recipes. Well, this recipe sounded just perfect. It was for Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars: a layer of jam sandwiched between two layers of peanut butter cookie/cake-ness. It would only take half an hour in the oven and ingredients (with some substitutions) that I had on hand - and it sounded delicious.

     There was only one problem. I did not have that much jam left, and there needed to be enough for a substantial layer between the two peanut butter layers. Did that deter me? Of course not. What did I do? The only thing one could have done to this bar to make it more delicious. I made up my missing weight in jam with Nutella. Have you ever tried strawberry jam mixed with Nutella? With a spoon straight out of the mixture? I suggest you try it at least once in your lifetime. If you have a sweet tooth like mine, there is just nothing like a lick of that smooth sweet strawberry chocolate taste.

Ah, Deliciousness.
     So, how was my late night creation? Well, it was a layer of soft peanut buttery cookie, a sweet layer of chocolatey strawberry jam, and then more peanut butter cookie crumbled on top. Make your own conclusions people. Let me just tell you that I have eaten three - huge - pieces since it came out of the oven last night at 1 am. One of those pieces was my breakfast, and a most lovely breakfast it was. Try this with your favorite jam or other spread, obviously anything goes. But, please do try it because it is just full of comfort, happiness, and the absolutely perfect flavors of Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Peanut Butter and Jam Bars 
Adapted from Have Cake Will Travel 

1/2 cup Softened Butter or Margarine 
1/2 cup Sugar 
1 cup Peanut Butter (any kind) 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
1 Egg 
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour 
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt 
3/4 cup Jam or Jam + Nutella (I used 1/2 cup Jam, 1/4 cup Nutella, I believe) 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8 in Square Pan (or your loaf pan and prepare to make two batches.)

In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, peanut butter, vanilla and egg using an electric mixer. Then, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the mixture until it is just combined. Then, using your hands, spread 2/3 of the the dough into the prepared pan, pressing it down (or 2/3 of half the dough if you are using a loaf pan). Next, spread the jam evenly on top. Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the dough on top of the jam. Put the pan in the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Then, place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Finally, cut the square (or loaf) into bars, and carefully transfer them using a spatula onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Repeat for the other half of dough and jam if you are using a loaf pan.) Try to wait for them to cool before you eat! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Happy Day


     Some days are just perfect. Even if you have three classes and then a lab practical, sometimes you are in a really good mood. You come home, you go to the supermarket, and let me come out of my dreamy tone for a second: Did you know that Supreme Shop and Bag on 43rd and Walnut has spices for 99 cents????  They have bags and bags of beautiful spices. Finding that out was probably the start of my dreaminess. So, I bought the amazing star anise you see above and the coriander seeds. And what did I need this bounty for?

Best Dinner Ever. 
     Pho. The soup that is the joy of Vietnam. The only thing I ever get at a Vietnamese restaurant even though I always say I will order something else -- how can I order anything else when I know there is pho simmering away somewhere in the kitchen? It's even one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite foods! (Pride of the travel channel? Amazing host of No Reservations? Anyone?) I have been wanting to make it for so long. I bought pho noodles and pork shoulder in Chinatown for that sole purpose. Today, I finally got a chance to make it! The joys of not scheduling any work.

How to Make Pho Noodles
     So, I bought my spices. I toasted them, tossed them in my big pot with chicken stock, water, onion, fish sauce, and the pork. Forty-five minutes of simmering later, I had the best food in the world. The rich, flavorful broth, noodles to slurp, and tender pork all topped with the crunch of onions and the freshness of cilantro and lime juice. I want more just writing about it, especially with my empty bowl staring at me. My pho tasted just as good as restaurant pho - and I didn't even have to leave the house.

Cilantro, lime, onion, fish sauce, hoisin sauce-and the empty bowls where pho was.
     Now, I get to sit, blog, and watch Friends with PN. I am pleasantly full of pho, and I have writing part of my kid's book to look forward to. That's not sarcastic- I'm really looking forward to writing, finally. And, best of all, PN is Vietnamese and she loved the pho! I am very happy with the day. Second best of all, there is still a little pho left. I love knowing I will get a good meal tomorrow.

Pork Shoulder Pho 
Adapted from Guilty Kitchen        

Serves 2 

For the Soup:

1 Star Anise
2 Cloves 
1/2 tbsp Whole Coriander Seeds 
2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock 
1 1/2 cups Water
1/2 Mid-Size Onion, Finely Chopped 
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder (or a small chunk of Fresh Ginger) 
1/2 tbsp Sugar 
1 1/2 tbsp Fish Sauce   
1/2 Pork Shoulder (about 1/2 lb) 
1/3 pack Pho Noodles (about 2 cups) 

To Prep the Pork Shoulder:

Cut the skin and fat off the top of the 1/2 lb piece of pork shoulder. Trim some of the excess fat off of the sides. Cut it in half. Then, place it in a large bowl filled with water

To Cook the Soup: 

First, pour the chicken stock, water, chopped onion, ginger powder, sugar, and fish sauce in a large saucepan without turning on the heat. Stir them to mix. Then, place the star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds in a frying pan at medium heat (without any oil). Toast them for 3-4 minutes until they are fragrant. Once they are done, pour them into the saucepan. Place the pieces of pork in the pan as well. Turn on the heat to medium-high, and bring the pot to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about forty five minutes. Turn off the heat, pull the pieces of pork out and cut them (careful, it will be hot) into smaller pieces. Place them back in the broth.

For the Noodles:

Find a rounded sieve or colander whose insides will fit inside a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with enough water that the sieve would be submerged. Bring the water to boiling and reduce the heat slightly, enough to keep the water boiling. Place half the pho noodles in the sieve, and dunk it in the boiling water. Use chopsticks to stir the noodles around in the water till they are soft. Then, transfer them to a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the noodles.

For the Toppings: 

1 Lime, Cut in Half 
1/2 Onion, Sliced 
1 Handful Cilantro
Hoisin Sauce 
Fish Sauce 

Put your soup in a bowl, add noodles, and top with the toppings! It will be so delicious. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Study Time"

Do you know what this is?
     So, whenever I talk to you, I always seem to be talking about my hectic life, my constant exams, and my cooking-for-the-future-freezing-extra-food-because-I-have-no-time-ness. I mean, that is true, but only to a certain extent. I also spend my time being a couch potato in my friends' (PVL and BJG and RG and CC's) apartment on campus watching tons of Food Network and not getting anything done. It is a good balance.

A new base of operations.

   Yesterday, I got off work (still kind of full of hot soup) and went home. Almost immediately, I saw a text from PVL: "Are you coming over tonight?" I wanted to, but I had to cook! But, he was all alone in that whole apartment. What a dilemma. So, I did the only thing that made sense. I took all my cooking materials to his dorm. Pork chops. Check. Panko and flour. Soy sauce, ketchup, and vegetable oil. Black pepper and salt. An egg wrapped in a paper towel. Check check check. 

     Have you guessed what I'm making? Well, maybe you have an idea, you just don't have the exact name. Here it is: Tonkatsu, or Pork Katsu, a Japanese pork dish. It's basically fried pork chops with a delicious sauce. And I have been craving it for oh so long.

     It is also, just like everything I seem to make, so easy! I know I had to buy panko for it, but panko is just the best kind of bread crumb that exists. If you ever plan to make anything of pure goodness involving coating with bread crumbs and frying, you should buy some right now! I'm sure you get it at regular grocery stores (I got it at Chinatown). 

    However, tonkatsu is generally deep-fried, and I am not a deep frying kind of person. Luckily, I found a recipe online for katsu from Amy at Nook & Pantry, who is apparently not a deep frying person either! It was great. I only changed it a very little, mainly to cut it down to size for my lovely, extra thin, boneless pork chops. Where she tenderized her meat with the spiky side of a waffle iron and then a pan, I battered mine with a plastic fork. I mean - it was mostly for stress relief, do those little chops even need tenderizing? Regardless, it was fun.

And then after frying pork chops, I fried the egg used for dredging...and ate it.
     So, that is why, after getting off from work at 9:15, after finishing writing my blog by around 11 (there was a lot of talking and Food Network-ing alongside), I made pork katsu, and we ate it for an almost-midnight snack. I split two of the chops with RG, and one with PVL (basically I am a little piggie sometimes), and that is how I ended up with no pork katsu lunch for the next day. But it's OK, because it was so good that of course none would be left over. It doesn't seem heavy, because the pieces are so small and it doesn't taste oily at all. The panko is crisp, the pork stayed moist and tender, and the katsu sauce...that sweet tanginess just brought everything together. It made me feel warm and full and good. Which is especially important on a night that ended up looking like this.

More Snow. Ah well.
Pork Katsu 
Adapted from Nook & Pantry 

Serves 3 (or the same number as the thin, boneless, pork chops you use - if you multiply, make sure to multiply the flour and panko amounts) 

For the Frying: 

3 Thin, Boneless Pork Chops (If you have fatter pork chops: you will have to debone them, and you will have to tenderize them more- See Nook & Pantry for details) 
1/8 cup Flour 
1 Egg, Beaten 
3/4 cup Panko 
Vegetable Oil 

First, trim the excess fat off the pork chops. Tenderize them by hitting them with the flat side of whatever utensil you have on hand, on both sides until they are flattened to about 1/4 in. Sprinkle a very little salt and pepper on both sides of the chops, rubbing them in. Then, lay out a frying line: put the flour in one deep plate, the egg in another, and the panko in the last. First, place the first pork chop in the plate of flour, turn it to cover both sides, and then shake off the excess. Next, put the chop in the egg, turning it to cover both sides, and letting the excess drip off. Lastly, put it in the plate with the panko, dropping panko onto the top-side to cover it as well. Don't shake, you want as much panko to stick as possible. Set aside and do the same for the other chops. Then, heat 1/4 in of oil in a large frying pan at medium heat. Once it is hot, put the pork chops in. Let them cook for about 3-5 minutes, then flip them, and cook them for 3-5 minutes on the other side, until both sides are golden brown. Place on a paper towel after they are fried, and pat them dry, so they are rid of excess oil. Cut into strips, and serve drizzled with Katsu Sauce! 

For the Sauce: 

1/4 cup Ketchup 
2 tbsp Soy Sauce 
1 1/2 tbsp Honey 
2 tbsp Teriyaki Sauce 
1 tsp Sugar  

In a medium bowl, mix the ketchup, soy sauce, honey, teriyaki sauce, and sugar thoroughly. Drizzle onto pork. Now, try to eat slowly. 


This is my own version of Katsu sauce because I didn't have the worcestershire sauce or mustard Nook & Pantry's recipe called for. Feel free to use hers or experiment by adding whatever else you would like! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Best to Cook

My view of Downtown Philly. Beautiful even on a gloomy day.
     Sometimes, the best way to cook is what I call the throw-everything-into-the-pot method. Generally, for me, this results in piping hot, veggie-rich, Asian flavored (considering the variety of Asian sauces I have now acquired) soup. Today, was no different. It was overcast and gloomy. It was cold, and as I've already been bemoaning the change in weather I will go no further with that. I missed my classes because I got sick. I was in a bad mood. What fixes a bad mood on a cold day? Not fussing over dishes I've never made before and would have to follow instructions for. Just making a good old - very comforting - soup.

Shiitake Mushrooms!
     I also have a lot of ingredients on hand, as you might have heard. I went mildly crazy at both Chinatown and Reading Terminal buying fresh fruits and veggies. You might know that I Rarely Ever have fresh produce, believing strongly in the power of the frozen food. So, what do I do with all this wealth? Well, I eat it as fast as possible, so none of it has a chance to go bad. And, when I know I can't eat an entire bush of kale (that is what it is - a bush), I boil some off to freeze it. Isn't it ironic that even when I buy fresh produce I turn it into frozen food? Ah well, that is the way of the world.

     Some of the fresh kale does make it into my soup though. Joining it are a bunch of shiitake mushrooms and a scallion, both of which I used to practice my julienning skills. Hurrah fancy Food Network words. Then, I look in my fridge. Hey! I still have more pork chops. In one goes. Life is beautiful when ingredients are on hand. And, isn't it just great that all you need for a soup base is water, soy sauce, and a little oyster sauce? I'm pretty sure you don't even need the oyster sauce, I just wanted to add a little something something more from my fully stocked pantry.

     So, for once, not only did I cook in the hour I had between class and work, I also got to eat. After a fast twenty minutes of cooking, I got a whole thirty to sit and enjoy! Imagine that. Slurping in the slightly bitter kale, the soft shiitake mushrooms, and that savory stock, I was utterly contented. Even leaving my apartment to find it chilly and snowing on my way to work didn't get me down. Everything is so different with your belly full of hot soup.

Quick Asian Kitchen-Sink Soup 

3 cups Water 
1/2 cup Kale
1/2 tsp Salt 
1 tbsp Soy Sauce 
1/4 tsp Oyster Sauce 
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder  
3 large Shiitake Mushrooms, Sliced Thinly 
1 Thin Boneless Pork Chop, Sliced Thinly (with excess fat trimmed off)  
1 Scallion, Sliced Thinly 
1 Egg  

Boil the water in a medium saucepan. Then, lower the heat to medium-low, and add the kale and the salt. Cook for about 8 minutes, then stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and ginger powder. Next, mix in the shiitake mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes. Then, add the pork chop pieces and scallion. After stirring in, try to create an empty space in the middle of the pan (it might be hard). Crack the egg, and drop it into that space. Let it cook for a minute, not agitating it too much. Then pull it apart with long chopsticks or a spoon, just making sure all of it is cooked. This will probably only take a minute, after which you are ready to serve! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

And We are Back to Earth

     It should not be allowed to be 65 degrees and summer one day and then snow the next night. The mood swings of the East Coast are wreaking havoc on my planning for each day. It continues to be on the cold side today, though without precipitation of any sort, and I suppose I must be happy with that. It is a day to be warm and inside, sit back, and enjoy my cookings. Make that, do my studying and work for the week ahead. Ah well. At least I can eat while studying. 
Lunch Time
     I knew Sunday would be like this: unmotivating and full of sorrow at the work I have to do. This is why I cheated. I cooked this dish on Friday night while making riblets! I am so full of forethought sometimes. It is a simple dish too, and a healthy dish. It made me feel better about adding all those honey to said riblets. It is cauliflower.  

     Cauliflower? Yes, cauliflower. It is really a very underrated vegetable. It is so easy to cook, so full of nutrients, and so....not bad for you - by which I mean, its hard to make it have a lot of calories. After a few days of picking at banana bread and cookies and the bag of Lindt chocolates sent to you by your mother, sometimes you need to start thinking about veggies again. 

     I was on the phone with my mom figuring out what to do with the riblets, when I decided I may as well give in and seek help on the giant cauliflower in my fridge as well. "Put it in the microwave," was the first thing told to me. "Cook it whole, don't cut it," was the second. Don't cut the cauliflower? But don't you have to pull it apart into all of its little stalks to cook it properly? Apparently not. 

     So, this recipe came from my mom's mouth to my ears to your eyes, as so often happens. It's simple, requires very little prep and few ingredients, and it is good. The cauliflower is soft and cooked through, but not mushy. It has a subtle spicy, tomato flavor, that would go great with other curries and rice. Its always good to have a dry vegetable around to offset meaty curries. Now, having made an entire cauliflower, I am also going to freeze a large portion of it (after the photography session is over), so I can have balanced servings of vegetables in my future. Huzzah. 

Cauliflower Mussalam 

Serves 2-4 depending on the size of your Cauliflower 

1 Cauliflower 
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil 
1 Medium Sized Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
1 clove Garlic, Minced  
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder 
1/4 tsp Turmeric 
1/2 tsp Garam Masala 
1 tsp Ground Coriander
3 tbsp Tomato Paste 
1/4 cup Milk 

Cauliflower Prep: 

Cut the thick bottom stem of the cauliflower, but don't cut in so deep that the stalks become separated. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, and rinse it under cold water. Place it in a microwavable bowl with a teaspoon of water in the bottom, and microwave it for 3-5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You want the cauliflower to give a little, but not be squishy. 

Cooking the Cauliflower: 

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the vegetable oil at medium heat. Then, add the onion, garlic, and ginger powder. Stir and fry up until the onions are translucent. Next, mix in the turmeric, garam masala, and ground coriander. Fry for another minute, until all the spices are combined. Next, add the tomato paste. Stir constantly and fry for two minutes, until it has turned a darker color. Once the tomato paste is nicely fried, stir in the milk. Once that is all combined, place the cauliflower head down into the wok, so the stems are facing you. Baste it with the liquid base so that it is covered nicely. Then, lower the heat, and put a lid on the pan. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovering and basting the cauliflower once in a while. When the cauliflower is soft all over, it is done. Take it out of the pan and put it on a plate to cool slightly. Then, use a knife to cut the stem away, so all the florets fall off (it might be easier to cut the whole thing in half first and then do this twice, once for each side). Now, you have your cauliflower ready to serve! 


- Make sure you have a tight fitting lid because you want the steam to cook the cauliflowers that are not directly touching the bottom of the pan. 

- If your curry base becomes far far too thick to baste the cauliflower with, but your cauliflower is still not cooked, just pick up the cauliflower, stir a little milk into the base, and then stick your cauliflower back in. My base was pretty thick, but I just basted the cauliflower and allowed it all to soak into the cauliflower, so it worked out fine.