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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apologies!

Hey friends,

Sorry for not posting lately, I'm in between laptops. My new Mac is on it's way and I've got a bunch of stuff to show you as soon as it gets here. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of my cat.




Monday, May 17, 2010

Can you tell me how to make, how to make that Sesame Slaw?

Dear Friends,

I started this post about three weeks ago, before my old laptop ate itself. Let's go back in time, shall we?

- H





Yesterday we hit the first barbeque of the season after a relaxing weekend of working on the yard and hanging around the house. When you tell me, "bring whatever" I generally kick into overdrive. I brought three things to this particular shindig: Bacon Spinach Deviled Eggs, Balsamic Strawberry Rhubarb Tart, and an Asian-style slaw. I neglected to get photos of the eggs and the tart. Sorry. Trust me when I tell you that they were very pretty.

The slaw idea came from having a lot of leftover Thai Basil and bean sprouts after I made pho the other day. I shredded my cabbage by hand, but I've had a lot of practice and I have a really big, sharp knife. You could use a food processor or even buy the pre-shredded bags of slaw mix, I am not here to judge.

Sesame-Ginger Slaw

1 small head of cabbage, shredded
4-5 carrots, shredded
1 lb mung bean sprouts
1 c chopped Thai Basil
1/2 c sesame seeds: black ones look pretty but regular ones are just as good!

Dressing:

1/4 c rice vinegar
1/4 c salad oil (canola, etc.)
1/4 sesame oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 tsp grated or minced fresh garlic
if you prefer your dressing sweet, 1 tsp - 1T sugar
salt to taste

Simple! Good enough as just a side dish, but later this week I plan to make shredded hoisin pork sandwiches and make this slaw again to use as a topping.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We want the pho, gotta have the pho.



It is pronounced "FUH" like "funk" and not "fo" like "fo sho", and that is why the title of this post works and I am funny.

Pho is Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup, typically sold as street food. You start with the noodles and some raw beef, pour boiling stock over them to heat up the noodles and cook the beef, and then choose from a variety of fresh herbs and greens to garnish.

The stock is the first "layer" of flavor in your dish. I've had pho at a few different restaurants, and found the broth to be pretty similar. From what I could tell, at a taste, it was beef broth, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mirin and sugar. When I was looking around online at different recipes to get the basic gist of what I would need to make my own I discovered that pho is a dish with many regional variations - in some areas they use cardamom and/or fennel, in some the broth is bitter from charred onion, in some the broth is sweeter. (For this meal I decided to go with a pretty basic recipe, to see what the family thought. )

The next layer of flavor comes from the garnishes. This is the fun part.

Greens include but are not limited to: Thai Basil, cilantro, fresh mung bean sprouts, scallions, any kind of leafy green (watercress, baby spinach), and culantro. Limes or lemon can be squeezed into your bowl, and you can basically go crazy on the sauces. I love going into the local Asian market and buying sauces and condiments, even if I don't know what they are. Here's some examples from my pantry:


L-R: Plum Sauce is kind of like duck sauce but tangy-er, Chili Garlic "Rooster" Sauce is hot with a nice rounded garlic flavor. Sweet Soy is what it sounds like; it's a thick, almost molasses-like syrup. It's kind of weird on it's own, but excellent when paired with Sweet Chili sauce. The two of those drizzled over any fried Asian appetizer like won tons or spring rolls or Crab rangoons = OMG SO GOOD. The last sauce is Sirracha. Sirracha fans will put that sh*t on everything. Pizza, burgers, scrambled eggs, you name it. It's spicy, like burn your lips spicy, but it's got a great kind of fresh flavor all it's own.

You can switch up/ add on to the protein, as well! I've had pho with brisket and meatballs, and I've seen tripe, tendon, and different organ meat on the menu. As you can see, tonight we added hard boiled eggs. I just found out that my local market has fresh quail eggs - so excited - they're going in next time.

Okay so the point is that there is a lot of choices here, don't get confused. Try whatever you like! As long as you have a nice rich broth, you can't go wrong.

Traditionally, the broth is simmered for hours and hours and starts with an oxtail. I was not up for an all day project, and Stop & Shop was fresh out of oxtail. You can definitely fake it if you start with a good quality beef stock.

I also want to add that you really need access to an Asian market or bodega for this one. Regular grocery stores might have some of this stuff, but it's going to be that super overpriced 'Taste Of Thai' nonsense.

White Girl Pho

1/2 gallon beef stock
1" piece of fresh ginger, smashed
1/4 small onion
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 tsp Five Spice powder, or more to taste
1T sugar


Place all of the above ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and then lower hear and simmer for as long as it takes you to prep all of the other ingredients. (minimum 30 minutes)

Cook one package "rice sticks" according to directions. Rice sticks are those flat, clear noodles that are also used in Pad Thai. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water. This will stop the noodles from cooking and keep them from sticking together in a big sad clump.

Prep all of your vegetables and herbs. I don't bother chopping the herbs like basil and such, we tear them with our hands, straight into our individual bowls.

(Thai Basil, watercress, cucumber, mung sprouts, limes, scallion)

Slice a 1 pound steak in very thin strips. Thin is the key here, you want it to cook on contact with the boiling broth.



Like so.


Now assemble; noodles, then raw beef, then ladle the broth in. Garnish to taste, then enjoy!

This was devoured by the whole family, by the way. It's nice because we all had slightly different dinners, to our own taste. Kind of like build-your-own-taco night.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta" - Federico Fellini

So I just got back from a weekend in Boston, and I am home for three days before flying to Toronto for TCAF and I have a bazillion things to do before I go and oh my god aaaaahhh. I didn't really have time to cook yesterday, but I also feel terrible about the amount of take-out and frozen stir-fry that I've been subjecting my kids to. Last night I made a full meal in less than 20 minutes - and you can, too!

If you do not own a crock pot, you are wrong and go get one. Seriously, I bet you even know someone who has one that they never use and will give it to you. They are fools, those people. They know not the amazing tool that they have at their disposal.

Before I left the house, yesterday morning, I rubbed a whole roaster chicken down with olive oil and seasoned salt.* I set my crock pot on high/4 hours. Line the bottom of the crock with crinkled aluminum foil.




Not only does the foil keep the chicken away from it's own drippings (stew is nice but not what you want, here), for some scientific reason that I have not given much thought to it gives it more of a crispy skin than when there's no foil. (Same holds true for roasting potatoes in there.)

Pour about a half cup of water in the bottom of the pot, this will keep the meat nice and moist while it's cooking. Place the chicken on the foil, close the lid.

That's basically it, walk away. Come back in a few hours and your chicken is ready to go.

Along with the chicken I made a quickie pasta saute'.



Wicked Easy Weeknight Pasta

1# large pasta shape

12 oz can of diced tomato, or if you can find them, canned cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
minced garlic to taste, I seriously used a whole head
a handful (a cup or so) of fresh basil, roughly chopped

1/4 c white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
s/p to taste


Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Get a large saute' pan or wok really really hot - high heat for a minute or two until it just starts to smoke. (This is all in the heat and timing. Saute' takes practice, but this is an easy one.) Add olive oil and immediately add onion and garlic. Stir (or wrist flip if you're fancy) until the onion is translucent. You want to keep the onion & garlic moving around as much as possible - if the garlic browns too much it will turn bitter. Add the wine. If your pan is hot enough, the alcohol will burn off almost immediately and the wine will reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, juice and all. Stir. You'll notice after about a minute that the sauce will have thickened, the goal is to reduce the sauce by about 1/3. Add vinegar, stir, then add the pasta. Give it a quick toss to coat the pasta and remove from heat. Toss in the basil at the end, season with salt and pepper.

The whole active saute' process takes less than five minutes once your ingredients are chopped and the pasta is cooked.

This is so basic that you could easily add other things at the end - capers and shrimp might be nice, for example - or kalamata olives and feta cheese!

*You can buy seasoned salt already mixed, but be careful because a lot of brands have MSG and silica and weird additives. I like Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Seasonings, but you can easily mix your own. I have a problem, I impulse-buy different spices and seasoning mixes just about every time I'm in the store. It's ridiculous.

Bina Osteria, Boston



Man, Boston's "Theater District" is gross and sketchy! Even though I grew up close to Boston, I had not been to that area before this past Saturday. E and I had tickets to see the touring company of Young Frankenstein; The Musical, and I thought that instead of Yelp-ing the neighborhood we could just "walk around and find something". Great idea in theory.

From what I can tell, the Theater District in the the beginning stages of what is charmingly known as "urban renewal". They recently renovated the Opera House (it is stunning, that's where we saw the play), The Paramount just reopened thanks to Emerson College, and tucked in between the numerous Dunkin' Donuts, the wig shop, and the Army-Navy store are a handful of four star Italian restaurants. After a quick lap around the block, we landed at Bina Osteria.

The weather was beautiful that day, so we chose to sit outside. The view is only a T stop and some Emerson dorms, but the fresh air was nice. I started with the Duck Confit, and was surprised when I discovered that it was duck breast (as opposed to legs, which is what is usually used for confit), and that it was served cold. I was not disappointed; it was light and flavorful and perfect for the warm evening. I also ordered their Glass Sipper cocktail - gin, cucumber, basil and lemon. Lovely. (...and HUGE, easily a double)



E started with the Mussels in Marinara. Soft and wonderful, light sauce. Near perfect.


Due to a kitchen problem, our entree's took a little too long; since we had to be at the theater by a certain time, we ended up wolfing our food down. No regrets! E loved her Squid Ink Spaghetti with Shellfish and Fresh Tomato. I had the Loin of lamb in a house-made chestnut tortilla, with portobella mushrooms and Fontina cheese. The staff couldn't be nicer, and the manager comped our drinks to make up for the wait (unnecessary, the entree's still arrived faster than any other full house on a weekend). I would absolutely eat there again, maybe the next time we see a show at the Opera House. Perhaps we'll have time for dessert.