Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Egg Foo Yung

I can't remember the last time I had egg foo yung. It was probably long ago in high school at any number of random Chinese AYCE buffets. I found a recipe in Food & Wine or Gourmet (I think) in the last few months that I though I would try. Full of fresh ingredients and with a home made gravy on the side, I thought it would be a winner. Shrimp, bean sprouts, scallions & mushrooms made up the veggies. I was out of oyster sauce so used a bit of Japanese okonomi sauce instead. I thought it turned out pretty good, although a bit bland - even the gravy was kind of meh. The 9 year old was not a big fan, though I tried to convince him by calling it a Chinese fritatta. Oh well.

Served alongside, I made Spicy Glazed Eggplant, from another issue of Gourmet. Basically just sauteed Asian eggplant (which I didn't have so used regular) to which is added a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, ginger and Japanese 7 spice powder.
All pantry items around here more or less. We really liked the flavor of this, next time I will use the Asian eggplant since it really cooks more tender than Italian eggplant. We had the leftover bulgur & roasted chickpeas as well, but it lost something in chilling, the chickpeas got sort of mushy after a day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Martini

I know I am being picky, but the fact that a drink is served in a martini glass does not make it a martini. Every time we go to a bar or restaurant that has a "cocktail" menu, there are pages of fruity concoctions that call themselves -tinis. Now, the Seagram's Bartending Guide lists exactly ONE Martini in it's pages. It has gin and vermouth (far too much) shaken in ice and strained into a glass with olives. So, if you are a well meaning waitress that asks me "what kind of martini", I am sorry that I was snooty and said "a normal one".
Scott's Seafood across from the South Coast Plaza makes an outstanding dirty martini. I also happen to make a good martini. This on the authority of several people including my husband and his late grandfather who may have been an authority on such.
SO, here is what I do when the need arises, as it did last night, for a good martini.
Serves 2.
8 olives (4 each, skewered on toothpick or cute olive picks like mine), keep the jar out for the juice - see below
Gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire, or The Blue Ruin as it is called around here
Dry Vermouth
2 martini glasses
cocktail "Boston" shaker & strainer

Put some vermouth in each glass, swirl around & put the glasses in the fridge (if the vermouth isn't cold because you don't always have some in the fridge, add some ice too)
Fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add 4 big glugs of Gin (I suppose you could measure...4 or so ounces for 2 drinks) and just a splash of olive juice, maybe about 1/2 oz)
Shake around a bit
Remember those glasses in the fridge? Get them out, swirl the vermouth around, and then dump it out -- yes... you read that correctly. Maybe a tiny tiny bit for the shaker (less than the olive juice)
Strain the chilled gin into the chilled glasses over the olives.
That is civilized, isn't it? Not a drop of pomegranite juice or apple pucker in sight!

Back to it....

After a relaxing weekend, we are ramping up for school starting (yes, 2 days of school followed by a 3 day weekend... great planning). The schedule has calmed down a bit this week, I have a minute to find some new things to work on. Back to the Flexitarian Kitchen then. I had tabbed a few Spring section things and never made them so here goes:
Bulgur with Roasted Chickpeas, Red Onion & Lemon:
This recipe is full of simple pantry items: spices (cumin seed, cayenne, smoked Spanish paprika, turmeric), red onion, canned chickpeas, lemon juice, oil or butter (I opted for oil). The roasting of the onions & chickpeas with the spices really adds a nice curry flavor to them. I had not cooked with bulgur before and I really enjoyed it, probably more than couscous (which you can substitute). The recipe makes a TON, way more than for 4 I think.

I served it with the Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur. But, I used my electric panini grill rather than a griddle and a heavy pan on top. I did butter the bread and grill to add a bit more brown-ness (the nonstick panini grill doesn't actually brown that well without a little help). Basically just a smoked salmon & gruyere panini... with addition of a little lemon zest & chives with grainy mustard on the salmon side. We really liked this (used TJ's whole grain artisan loaf, worked quite well) and it made us think of other things for the panini press (again... we hadn't used it in a while). Peppered smoked salmon with maybe red onion relish.. kind of like a salmon reuben? Maybe next time. I really loved this. Luckily I have leftover salmon, bread and cheese.... lunch later in the week after the kid goes back to school!! Today I promised him noodles at the Mitsuwa Market food court. More overdue clipped magazine recipes this week....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still here....

A quick update... we've been pretty busy with baseball (both the travel team and the local minor league team) and getting ready for the school year to start, so I've been making a few repeats (brined pork chops) and easy instant stuff (Ikea meatballs & roasted potatoes). With a few ballpark hot dogs and soccer stadium nachos thrown in for variety.... But now that soccer season (Chivas USA) is about done, OC Flyers baseball is winding down, and school is ready to start, we will hopefully be back to a normal dinner routine. I have 2 new cookbooks (free, I only had to pay shipping, couldn't pass that up!!: The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy and Mario Batali's Italian Grill)

Sunday I brought home a package of cooked lobster claws and 3 lbs of clams home from Costco for our dinner, we had a 1996 Chassagne-Montrachet to drink in celebration of our 12th wedding anniversary. Clams went into the pot with a bottle of inexpensive but drinkable Pinot Gris, about 2/3 stick of butter, a sliced lemon, 4 smashed garlic cloves and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. We ate the lobster claws cold with lemony clarified butter. Some nice demi-baguettes rounded out the meal. I was outvoted on a salad, we made a good mess on the outside tablecloth. It was fun, we debated about music and the Dodgers while getting messy with shellfish. I forgot to take a photo of the spread either before or after, there was quite a bit of carnage. A great way to end the weekend.

Monday I made a different tofu recipe from the Flexitarian cookbook - roasted tofu with lemon & thyme. I was a bit short of lemons so left of the slices. It was sort of meh, kind of dry. We all like the "other" version better (I posted on it before, with soy/butter/ginger/shallot sauce).

Last night was brined pork chops, also posted previously. It is just amazing to me how brining makes even blah supermarket pork chops very tasty.

Tonight & tomorrow bring more repeats, fritatta & chicken/sage bake without sausage this time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leftover basil

I do own a Cuisinart, but there was really something kind of fun about crushing garlic & basil into pesto with a mortar & pestle.

I had some leftover basil from a caprese salad from the night before, so I immediately thought I would make pesto. I left out the pine nuts, mine seemed kind of rancid. I also didn't add much cheese, so it was probably more like pistou (Provencal style) than pesto. It was a perfect light supper for 2, since our son was away. The basil, organic from Whole Foods, almost had a minty quality, it was nice & earthy, not overpowering at all. A glass of crisp white wine (Pinot Gris I think) rounded out the meal.

It was hard work, but definitely worth it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Parent's night out

We were more or less kid-less for nearly a week and boy do we know how to party! Saturday, we thought about going to a movie but did you know that it costs nearly $12? Considering that we have the full HD setup (no Blue Ray yet...), and can buy a movie when it comes out for less than $20.... Saturday night found us playing Daytona, Skee-ball and Flip-it games at Dave & Busters. 4 plastic pint glasses were purchased with our winnings, and many drinks and bar snacks were had.

Sunday brought the troupe back over to our house for birthday BBQ (see previous post), and Monday was a Double Header night for the OC Flyers, our local independent baseball team. Good, cheap fun, I think tickets start at $5. Yes, we really do love baseball. In fact just this past weekend we were in Fresno and saw the Grizzlies (AAA team for the Giants) and will be back at the Flyers tomorrow night.

Since I have community band on Wednesday, we decided Tuesday would be fine dining night. We really didn't have a restaurant vibe though. So, hubby went to our offsite wine storage to pick up something special and I was off to Whole Paycheck. I returned with a baguette, baby carrots, basil, burratta cheese and 2 fantastic veal chops. The basil & burratta went perfectly with some heirloom tomatoes grown by our friends Kate & Andy (who by the way gave me a volunteer plant that they had put in a pot - I really hope I don't kill it!). All we needed was olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic. We spread the salad onto a baguette and enjoyed what may be the last 1996 white burgundy wine in our cellar. After that, we decanted a 1997 Silver Oak Napa, and made pan roasted veal chops and carrots. The veal chops were awesome, the wine was really drinking well. All this cost a fraction of what we would have spent in a restaurant and was simple to prepare and to clean up.

I have a strange kid

For the occasion of my son's 10th birthday, I suggested that we do white BBQ chicken. He immediately said "YES" and bowed down to my cooking greatness. What kid gets all freaky about BBQ chicken and specifically white BBQ chicken? Indeed, if said kid is not from Decatur, Alabama, chances are they have never even heard of it! Funny thing is, the Grillmaster has more work on this recipe than I do!
This recipe comes from a place called Big Bob Gibson's and the sauce recipe is widely available in cookbooks, on the web, etc. Its' not really a secret. We tried it last summer, I was totally skeptical but it is really really awesome.

The chicken (I used whole legs instead of split chickens) gets salted & peppered, then cooked over indirect heat until mahogany, basting once with fat (lard, butter, oil, whatever - we used melted butter) . This takes 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, we should have started earlier but it was ok, everyone was still happy.

Once done, they are doused in a sauce of basically mayo, cider vinegar, horseradish, salt, black pepper & cayenne pepper. You can also make a batch of the sauce to mix with cabbage for coleslaw (not pictured), which is what I did. I think the good folks at The Shack By The Track may do this as well, because the slaw tasted remarkably similar.

My in-laws, my nephew, and the Grillmaster's Australian grandmother loved this. There was not a bite left, and the dish was pronounced the best chicken ever by all. There was room for dessert, a (yes, from the box) yellow cake with chocolate frosting, appropriately decorated with birthday candles.

Take that, Pinkberry!

I made the exceedingly simple frozen yogurt from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop", basically plain yogurt, vanilla & sugar frozen in an ice cream maker. Nice and tart, this goes great with some frozen blueberries (leftover from a Coscto package). Mmmmm summery goodness!