Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mustard Cheddar Crackers

I had a block of cheese in the fridge that got hidden in the back of the cheese & butter drawer for who knows how long. Amazingly enough, it was mold-free, so I decided to make crackers, using this recipe from Epicurious.















My block of cheese was Colby-Jack instead of the cheddar in the recipe. I left out the mustard seeds, because I figured (correctly) that dry mustard and Dijon mustard would be mustardy enough. I also rolled the dough log in cracked black pepper before chilling it.

I have this problem waiting for butter to soften, so I used a masher-thingy that MIL brought home. It worked passably well. Look, cheeseworms!















Verdict? Very rich, nice flavor. Perfect for using up a hunk of found cheese.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Meatloaf Sandwich

MIL made meatloaf the other day, and since she always cooks for an army, we of course had leftovers. Here's my favorite way to have leftover meatloaf:
















Toast bread, fry egg, heat meatloaf, melt cheese, assemble. Serve with hot sauce and a beer.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Random Quotes from the WIP Household

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"I love the Dalai Lama, he's so sexy, I wish he was my boyfriend."

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"It's full of meat, happiness and love."

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MIL: "I hope it's not foggy tomorrow morning."

Hubby: "It won't be, don't worry."

MIL: "How do you know? You're not God."

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Hubby: "I heard they got the fragrance from cactus."

MIL: "Well, f**k, I'll just rub a piece of cactus on my a$s then."

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Hubby (to the dog): "Charlie, if you continue the way you are, I'm gonna get rid of you."

me: "If you continue the way you are, can I get rid of you?"

Hubby: "Yeah."

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Youngest: "I need to put on pants before I make food."

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Youngest: "I hate fake trees, they don't smell like Christmas."

Me: "I'll get some pine spray and spray the tree with it."

Youngest: "That doesn't smell like Christmas, that smells like a lie."

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And with that, my friends, I'll leave you with best wishes for this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc. If you don't believe in God of any Sort, then I wish you a Happy December and a Happy 2009.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Non-Food Post - Reviving a Literary Meme

I remember a meme running around the Interwebs a while ago, that asked you to pick up the nearest book at hand, go to the 123rd page, find the 5th sentence, and then post the following three sentences. Here's mine:

The allomorphs of a morpheme are in complementary distriubtion or free variation, that is, in noncontrastive distribution. The allomorphs /-s/ and /-z/ of {noun pl.}, for example, are in complementary distribution. /-s/ occurs after voiceless sounds as in caps /kæps/, and /-z/ occurs after voiced sounds as in cabs /kæbz/.
This is from A Linguistic History of English by Robert A. Peters (thanks, Mom!), a book I'm sure that nobody but me would bother reading unless required to.

Anybody want to join in? I don't like 'tagging' people, so if you want to participate, please leave a comment.

Look forward to seeing what you guys are reading!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Scrambled Eggs with Salami, Gouda, and Green Onion

You know those meals that you make at 10pm, when you're absolutely starving, yet completely exhausted? Yeah, this was one of those.

No pictures, and I apologize for that. This was something I whipped up after a grueling day, with no thought whatsoever to blogging, only gaining some nourishment before crashing. After eating it, I realized just how delicious it was, and had to share.

Scrambled Eggs with Salami, Gouda, and Green Onion

2 eggs, whisked with a bit of milk
3 slices salami, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
some Gouda, sliced from a wedge, chopped
salt & pepper
butter

Mix the Gouda into the eggs/milk. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add butter, and swirl to melt. Sizzle the salami and green onion in the skillet for a bit, then pour in the eggs & cheese. Cook slowly, stirring and flipping, not letting the eggs get too hard before turning. This will probably involve removing the pan from the heat a few times. When the eggs are almost done to your liking, season with salt and pepper, and stir/flip to incorporate.

Serve with Triscuits and Tapatio. (If there was bread in the house, it would've been a sandwich, but all I had was crackers.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle - For Cooks Who Love Wine

A little while ago I entered The Crispy Cook's November Cookbook Giveaway, and was lucky enough to win John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle - For Cooks Who Love Wine.




















I'll admit I had never heard of John Sarich or Chateau Ste. Michelle, but one flip through this book and I want to visit the winery, immediately!

John Sarich is a James Beard Award winning chef, and the culinary director of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville WA (just outside of Seattle). In his introduction, he documents the Chateau's history, as well as his own, and goes on to explain why certain wine pairings work, which I never knew - for instance, the "acids and fruit flavor of a Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc will cleanse the palate and cool the heat of a spicy Asian shrimp dish, while at the same time the fruit flavors of the wine complement the sweet sea taste of the shrimp." The last section of the book is a chart devoted to food and wine pairing, foods down the left, and wines across the top, with *'s indicating good matches - I want to Xerox it and carry it with me everywhere.

The rest of the book is divided into 3 sections, the bulk being White Wine Foods and Red Wine Foods, with a small section at the end for stocks and sauces. What jumped out at me right away from this last section was Ginger Chardonnay Cream Sauce with Caviar, for topping spinach fettucine, steamed mussles, roast chicken, or asparagus. Pardon me, but I think I'll eat that sauce with a spoon!

From the white section, the recipes that beckon to my mental palate the most are The Ultimate Baked Onion (stuffed with chanterelle risotto), Italian Pounded Chicken (which sounds almost exactly like the chicken I had at Rosebud in Naperville IL), and Croatian Kraut, Sausage and Chicken Stew (which appeals to my Eastern Euro side, I guess).

From the reds, you have choices like Polenta with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan (and whipping cream!), Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes (which I've always wanted to make but never have), and White Beans with Puttanesca Sauce (why did I think it could only go on pasta?).

And the photographs? Unlike anything I've seen in any other cookbook. Photographer Darrell Peterson definitely has some magic. The colors are dark, mostly reds and greens, but with little bits of light expertly directed to the right places. Just looking at the pictures makes you feel like you're in a romantically lit restaurant. (Please check out Mr. Peterson's website, the photos there are completely different from the ones in this cookbook, very white-bright, but absolutely beautiful.)

Conclusion? Very nice cookbook to have. I may actually make some of the recipes (and if you know me, you know that's rare). Thanks again to Rachel at The Crispy Cook for sending it to me.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Uncle Tony's Italian Cuisine

If you're looking for good Italian food and a great atmosphere, look no farther than Uncle Tony's Italian Cuisine in Vista CA.

Meet Tony. Doesn't he look like a fun guy?




















First off, there's pizza. I'm not talking Round Table, Papa John's, etc. This is everything pizza should be, and nothing it shouldn't - thin crust, not too heavy on the toppings, baked perfectly. Our favorite is the margherita, but we've also had the Uncle Tony's Specialty (spinach with garlic, olive oil, ricotta and mozzarella), the Meat Lovers (pepperoni, sausage, cappicola, salami and meatballs) and the Greek Pizza (feta cheese, olive oil, garlic and basil), with no complaints (just full bellies!).















Moving on to appetizers, these guys have the best fried calamari I've ever had anywhere. You know how sometimes you get calamari and it's like chewing on rubber bands? Complete opposite here - these practically melt in your mouth. Nice light breading, and marinara sauce to dip them in - I could have these for dinner. The garlic bread, cheesy breadsticks, and jalapeño poppers are tasty too.















For sandwiches, they have all the usual suspects: Chicken Parmigiana, Meatball with Cheese, Pastrami, etc. They also have choices like Gourmet Cajun Chicken, Pizza Sub, and Chicken Cheese Steak. My favorite? The Eggplant Parmigiana - garlicky, toasty, cheesy, happy.

Of course they have pastas - all shapes and sizes, every variety of meat and sauce. Everything I've seen coming out of the kitchen looks delicious. Get a gander at the veal parmigiana on spaghetti -















To wash it down, they have 10 beers on tap, and a good wine list, along with the non-alcoholic beverages.


































And don't forget dessert - order a cannoli.
















Uncle Tony's Italian Cuisine
770 Sycamore Ave., #H
Vista, CA 92083
760-598-6669

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bon Appétit, January 2009

Here are my picks from the January 2009 issue of Bon Appétit:

Did you make any of these? Let me know!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Food & Wine, January 2009

I just typed 2009 for the first time, where did 2008 go? (Although I have to say I'm glad it's almost over!)

And so, what does the year's first issue of Food & Wine bring us? Lots of tasty-looking treats.

As always, let me know if you make any of the above!

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Non-Food Post - Gift

Check out the Doctor Martens I just bought for Youngest. The canvas upper can be taken off, and you're left with the 3-eyelet shoe. Aren't they the greatest?

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bon Appétit, December 2008

Tasty looking recipes from the December 2008 issue of Bon Appétit:

If you try any of the above, let me know how it turned out!

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Morbier Cheese

I picked up a wedge of Morbier cheese at BevMo the other day. It sounded vaguely familiar, but I knew I'd never had it. When I got home, I Google'd it, and saw that I had previously visited the page for Morbier on that oracle of knowledge, Wikipedia. In summary, Wiki says it's stinky with a tasteless layer of ash in between. Here's a review on Irregular Times (which I don't 100% agree with), if you're interested.



















(Picture courtesy of pinprick.)

Woah! Is it stinky! Honestly, my first impression was moldy bath towels. Hubby said it smelled like a foot. But surprisingly, the stinky doesn't carry over into the taste. It's very tangy, but creamy and smooth. (Sorry, I don't know all the hip cheese-words.) Even Hubby liked it when I force-fed him a bit. Very nice on a plain cracker. It would probably be good with some fig or onion jam on top. Alas, I was jamless.

Would I buy it again? You betcha.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey, Cabbage, and Rice Soup

I hope you made turkey stock from your leftover bird. Even if you didn't, you can use chicken broth to make this soup, or even water with a bouillon cube or two.

For the rice, I used Camargue red rice. Brown or wild rice would also work well. I'll bet barley or wheatberries would be tasty also.

This soup is great as a sort of de-tox, nothing heavy like stuffing, potatoes, etc. Just soup. With veggies. It's good for you.















Slice carrots and celery, chop onion, mince garlic. Saute until slightly softened. Add stock and chopped up leftover turkey, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until the veggies are almost as soft as you want them. Add chopped cabbage and cooked rice, and simmer until the cabbage is wilted. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rugelach

These are my favorite cookies - a nice soft cream cheese dough, stuffed with a mix of sugar, cranberries, pecans, butter, and spices.















I put out a plate on Thanksgiving, and they all disappeared.















I guess I'll have to make another batch (or 4!) for Christmas.

I'm submitting this recipe to Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event. Click here for the roundup of entries already submitted, or on the logo below to see how to submit your favorite Christmas Cookie recipe!










Rugelach

4 oz cream cheese
8 oz butter
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 t salt

2/3 c sugar
1 c dried cranberries or raisins
1/3 c chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
8 oz butter
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg

1 egg, beaten with a little water
sugar for sprinkling

Beat the butter and cream cheese together. Mix in flour, then sugar and salt. Form into 6 balls, and flatten them into disks. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate about 4 hours.

Mix together the filling ingredients - You can do it in a food processor, or by hand. If you mix by hand, you'll have to chop up the cranberries.

Roll out one dough disk into an 8 inch circle. Cut into 8 equal wedges. Add a teaspoon or 2 of filling to each one. Fold in the corners of the wide end of the wedge, and roll up.

Brush cookies with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake on greased baking sheets for 16 minutes at 350.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Stuffing and Ham Hash

For my first post-Thanksgiving leftovers meal, I made a simple hash of leftover stuffing and chopped ham, topped with a runny egg (of course).
















I think I love leftovers more than the meal.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Garlic

I had purchased a couple parsnips for a soup that I never ended up making. Every time I opened the veggie drawer, I was reminded of their presence. It seemed like they were looking at me, trying to make me feel guilty for not using them.

So the other night I made my parsnips' dreams come true, roasting them with carrots to accompany my zesty chicken.
















Oh, parsnips, how could I have forgotten about you? Your earthiness, your sweetness, all bathed in garlic. I love you. (Carrots, I love you too).

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips:

Cut carrots and parsnips into 2-3" lengths, then in half or in quarters as necessary, to achieve even-sized pieces. Toss them with olive oil, a small amount of garlic powder, kosher salt, a little paprika, and a ton of black pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and toss the roasted veggies with some sautéed garlic.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemons and Capers

I found some chicken thighs hiding in my freezer, and consulted my recipe folder for some way to use them. After running my top 3 pics by Hubby, we chose Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemons and Capers from Eat. Drink. Think.

Here's my cast of characters. Très belle mise en place, no?
















I love this recipe - a little work at the beginning, then you get to relax for a while. Brown the chicken, slowly sauté the garlic, deglaze with wine, add broth and seasonings, tuck the chicken into its nice warm bath, and braise for 45 minutes.

I deviated from the recipe by reducing the braising liquid (minus the chicken) after the chicken was done, and adding a little flour to thicken it. And right before I sautéed the garlic, I did a quick deglaze with just a bit of the wine, because I was worried about my fond burning while the garlic was sautéing. Paranoid that way, I guess.

Served with white rice and roasted carrots and parsnips.

Hubby swears he hates wine in cooking, but he couldn't stop eating this. Little chihuahua liked it too, she stole the last piece off the table when we were out of the room, and ate the entire thing. I only found half the thigh bone. But it's been 48 hours, no signs of chicken-bone-illness, so I think we're in the clear. But she's seriously busted. Little thief.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I picked up a bag of fingerlings at the market today, a mix of half "regular" and half purple. Aren't they adorable?















I figured the best way to enjoy them would be to roast them. Then add garlic. Mmm...garlic.

So here's how:

Cut your fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut any larger pieces in half again. Remember, folks, potatoes taste better when they have maximum surface area touching the pan - you get the happy crispy bits that way. Toss your potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. A sprinkling of paprika can't hurt. Throw in a few cloves of unpeeled garlic too. Roast at 375-400 until they're done. Sorry, I can't tell you how long that takes. Just mix them up every 8-10 minutes or so, when they get crispy edges, they're most likely done. Taste one. You'll know.

Remove the garlic from the pan, peel it, and mash it. Add it back to the potatoes, and toss. And if that's not enough garlic for you, I also like to finely mince 2 cloves and sauté them slowly in lots of olive oil, seasoned with salt. When it's softened, add the garlic mince to the potatoes, leaving most of the oil in the pan.















Best part? The leftover garlic infused oil for dipping bread into.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grilled PB&J

Yup, I said grilled. As in cheese. But with peanut butter and jelly instead.















Go on, make one. You know you want to.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Japanese Curry

How do I make Japanese curry? I open a box of S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix. This is one of the few times where I won't advocate making it from scratch. And you know what? All the Japanese people I know open the same box :)















You start by sauteing chopped onion and cubed beef (or chicken or pork) in oil. Add carrots, celery and/or bell pepper chunks if you wish. Add water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the curry paste until it dissolves. The box directions say to serve immediately, but I always cook it for a minute or two, just to get rid of the raw flour taste and to thicken it a bit.

Serve over rice or noodles. Easy, spicy, delicious. The fat content of the paste is rather high (64%!), but remember you're diluting that with water, protein, and veggies, so it ends up not being that bad.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roasted Chestnuts

I love roasted chestnuts. (Hubby hates 'em, yay, more for me.) A few days ago I read about roasted chestnuts sauteed in butter on Gastronomy Domine. Sauteed in butter, people. And then I found these beautiful Italian chestnuts at Trader Joe's. I think it was a sign.















OK, so everyone knows you have to cut the shell a little before roasting, otherwise you'll have exploding chestnuts, right? And everyone knows that you should never use a dull knife for anything, right? But you know what I didn't think of? You should probably use a towel or something underneath your chestnuts when cutting them, to keep them from shooting across your kitchen, leaving the knife to slice through the place where the chestnut used to be. Wanna know how I know this?















Good thing my knife is sharp, otherwise it would really hurt.

Here are my cuties after roasting.















I've always read that you should peel chestnuts as soon as you can handle them, because the papery stuff under the shell will come off easier that way. If that's true, then I believe it may be physically impossible to peel a cold chestnut, because even hot, it was a pain in the ass. Be careful when peeling, because you'll get little bits of the papery stuff jammed under your fingernails, and your hands will hurt for 2 days.

After peeling, sauté in butter. Sprinkle with salt.















Worth the sliced finger? Worth getting paper bits under my fingernails?

You betcha.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Last night I made my "famous" chicken dinner.

Always tasty, no thought involved. Here's how:

Take a whole chicken and whack it in half vertically. (Umm, that doesn't sound right. How about cut in half along the backbone?) Rinse it & pat dry. Rub with olive oil. Sprinkle on lemon juice. Season liberally (I'm talking Obama-liberally) with Lawry's, paprika, garlic powder, dried basil and oregano.

Set on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up. Add some water to the bottom of the pan so the drippings don't burn. Bake til done, the first 2/3 covered, the last 1/3 uncovered to crisp up the skin.

[begin food safety announcement] How long is "til done"? Depends on the size of your bird. Go with 20 minutes per pound, for a final internal temperature of 185-190 degrees F. [end of food safety announcement]

Make a gravy if you'd like out of the drippings. I usually just skim the fat and strain into a gravy-boat-ish dish ('cause I'm lazy). Pour some of it on your breast meat to moisten, pour some on your rice, etc.

Sides are always white rice, and either cucumber-lemon-chile powder salad, or iceburg lettuce-lemon-oil-black pepper salad.

Easy peasy.

The best part? (Besides the crispy highly seasoned skin, I mean.) MIL makes chicken salad the next day with the leftovers.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Apple Cheddar Muffins

I had a couple apples on their last legs (hee! apples with legs!), and some cheddar in the fridge. So I Foodblogsearch'ed apple and cheddar, and came up with Apple, Pecan & Cheddar Muffins with Apple Cider Frosting from Vanilla Sugar.















I replaced the 4T of buttermilk with about double the amount of thick Greek yogurt, and didn't do the frosting - no buttermilk, cream cheese, or apple cider currently in my fridge, and I feel too crappy to go to the store. And I left out the pecans, because I'm either out, or couldn't find them.

These are delicious. I didn't taste the cheddar, but I blame that on a combination of my stupid virus and my supermarket cheese. What I did taste was soft sweet apples and yummy spices. And now I'm bemoaning my lack of cream cheese, because I'm sure they'd be even more delicious with cider-spiked frosting on top.

This one stays bookmarked so I can do it justice in the future (and hopefully get a decent picture).

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Still feeling like I had the plague, I decided on a quick delicious soup for lunch.



















This soup is loosely based on this recipe from Melissa Clark in the NY Times. I say loosely, because I didn't stick to the quantities, omitted the cilantro, and added some crushed coriander seed.

For the carrots, I used my veggie peeler to get thin strips, then chopped those up. That's probably the best idea I've ever had for soup - no matter how small you dice carrots, you always get chunks of carrot. The peel and chop method worked perfectly, giving the carrots the same consistency as the lentils. (Definitely use red lentils, also called masoor dal, any other kind won't break down enough.)
















Since all the veggies were really small already, I didn't use a blender (immersion or otherwise), just mashed with a spoon until it was slightly thicker.

If you haven't tried lemon juice in soup - not just lentil, it works in chicken too, and would probably work in a beans & greens soup - I strongly urge you to go out and buy a lemon.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food & Wine, December 2008

My picks from December's issue of Food & Wine:

I'm surprised that I only found three recipes that really jumped out at me. Kind of depressing for a holiday issue.

But did anybody see the new Acura TL on page 8? Beautiful.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nasty cold? Try pho.

I've got a nasty virus. (Hubby was gracious enough to share.)

So, not feeling up to cooking, we got takeout from Pho Saigon Express in Escondido yesterday. Verdict? Best pho I've ever had in CA. (Can anyone tell me the HTML code for the o in pho? I can't seem to find it.)

I had the Dac Biet Xe Lua (again, need help with special characters please!), which has rare steak, well-done steak, flank, brisket, tendon and tripe. Yes, tendon and tripe. Normally I, too, would say "Ugh!". But with pho, it's different.

The bun (noodles) and meats were packed in a takeout container, the broth in a styrofoam, the garnishes in a plastic bag. The garnishes (sprouts, jalapeños, basil and lime) were fresh, and ample. Vietnamese coriander was missing, unfortunately, but I'm not going to complain too much about that.

The broth? Wonderful. The star anise flavor came through nicely, and there wasn't too much fat on top. It had that unctuous smooth velvety feel to it that makes you think it'll solidify when refrigerated (it didn't). Tasty.

The meats were also nice - superthin slices of raw beef, and slightly thicker slices of well-done beef, flank and brisket. I couldn't tell you which was which other than the raw beef, but it doesn't matter - it was all good. Only a couple pieces of tendon, which is fine with me, because I like one or two pieces, but more than that is just too much. The tripe is the shreddy crunchy nubby kind, nothing like what you get in menudo. I love this stuff.

Packed on top of the noodles and meat were thinly (and I mean thinly) sliced onions, chopped cilantro, and sliced green onion. I also got a small container of something dark red and spicy - not the normal chile-garlic sauce, this was a smooth sauce. Don't know what it was, but I added some to the broth - I think it scared away the nasty virus that I've been hosting for the last few days.

The whole thing cost me $6.26. And I ate it for dinner last night and lunch today. I've never been this happy and this sick at the same time.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Katsu Seafood & Steakhouse

For Oldest's birthday over the weekend, we went to Kastu Seafood & Steakhouse in San Marcos.

MIL had the galbi - I didn't try it, but Hubby said it was good, and MIL ate all of it, so I guess that means it's acceptable. Youngest had their beef yakisoba, which I also didn't try, but everyone who did said it was good.

Oldest got the kama, or yellowtail collar, as an appetizer. I love love love kama, and Katsu's is among the best I've ever had. The ponzu dipping sauce was a very nice accompaniment.

Oldest and her boyfriend shared the Triple Fantasy Roll and Red Caterpillar Roll. The Triple Fantasy Roll consists of tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, and "special sauce", and topped with tempura flakes, hot & spicy tuna, eel sauce, and hot & spicy sauce. Seriously, the word "sauce" appears three times in the description, and, you know what? Too much sauce.

The Red Caterpillar Roll is hot and spicy tuna and avocado inside, topped with spicy tuna. Consensus was that it was too mushy, given the spicy tuna and the avocado.

Hubby and I shared the Poke Combo Roll, the Katsu Seafood Salad, and an eel hand roll. The eel hand roll was, well, an eel hand roll. Good proportions of eel, veggies and rice, rolled nicely, easy to eat.

The Katsu Seafood Salad was wonderful - a variety of fish, seaweed, kaiware (radish sprouts), onion, and cucumber, with hot & spicy orange sauce. At first glance, it looked like way too much onion, but it was surprisingly mild. Makes me wonder if they soaked the super-thin slices after cutting and before plating. The fish was cut perfectly, the dressing wasn't overpowering. The seaweed was fresh-tasting and clean and crunchy.

The Poke Combo Roll was a California roll topped with spicy tuna, then topped with a seaweed salad, then doused in ponzu sauce. The avocado was cut slightly too large for my taste, but that's just me and my allergies. The crab, er, krab, was different from other CA rolls - instead of being chopped up and mixed with mayo, it was simply a stick of krab, which, in a way, is better than the mayo-soaked version. This may have been good, except for the fact that the roll was sitting in a pool of sauce upon its arrival - the rice soaked up all the sauce, and the roll became impossible to eat without making a mess.

On previous visits to Katsu, I felt that their sushi, while good, wasn't rolled very well. And this occasion was no different - the slices were cut unevenly, and didn't hold together. Don't you hate it when you go to pick up a piece of roll and it falls apart? Yeah. And the bigass end piece, that's twice the width of the other slices? Yeah, they have that too.

They also have some rolls on the menu called Large Rolls. These are seriously large - cut thin, but at least 3" in diameter. Can someone explain to me how to eat these?

All of my sushi-roll-complaining aside, I've never had anything there that doesn't taste good. But if you order any of the special rolls, you might want to ask for a fork (or a spoon!). I've definitely had better sushi (and sashimi, and hand rolls, etc) in SD, but Katsu is good if you have friends or family that won't eat raw fish, or have a large party and can't sit at the sushi bar. (My one sushi bar experience at Katsu was extremely pleasant.)

Yes, I'll go back to Katsu, but from now on, I'm ditching the sushi rolls, and sticking to their salads and sashimi (and kama!).

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Shisito Peppers

I picked up an absolutely gorgeous bunch of shisito peppers at Marukai a few days back. I had read that they're like pimientos de padrón, so I decided to cook them that way - very small amount of oil, cook over high-ish heat until the skins start blistering, blot on paper, sprinkle with salt. I had also heard that, like pimientos de padrón, 1 in 10 is spicy. So I cooked 10 of them.















Spicy? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes! Not very, but my lips were tingling for a few minutes. Other than that, how to describe the taste? Like a pepper. More specific? Like a pasilla, but very thin flesh and skin. I typically detest pepper skin, but I had no problem with these, the whole thing was very light and delicate.

Would I make them again? Yup, but probably as a part of a tapas party, antipasto platter, etc.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Soft Pretzels

I absolutely love this recipe for German Soft Pretzels from Grant Achatz. Who's he, you may ask? He's the genius at Alinea in Chicago. He's the incredible young (34!) chef who got tongue cancer - his treatment worked, he's cancer-free now. But can you believe the irony, the complete unfairness, that a chef of his brilliance could have lost his tongue?

(In addition to being an awesome chef, he's also absolutely adorable.)

Where was I? Oh. Yeah. Pretzels. OK, on to the pretzels - it's kind of a fiddly recipe, what with the rising, shaping, rising, boiling for 30 seconds, draining, baking. But it's so worth it.
















Puffy, crunchy, salty, with that unique pretzelly flavor - I'm not sure if that's from the brown sugar, the baking soda in the water, or both. Maybe I'll investigate.

Or maybe I'll just have another pretzel.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Frugal Friday Jambalaya

A while back I got a sample kit from McCormick of a bunch of Zatarain's products. I was expecting a box or 2 of stuff, but I ended up with 2 boxes of Jambalaya, 1 microwave pouch of Jambalaya, 1 box of Dirty Rice, 1 box of Red Beans and Rice, 3 boxes of Fish Fry, and 1 box of Crispy Southern Fish Fry. Awesome, no?

Tonight I was feeling lazy and a little broke, so I grabbed a box of Jambalaya, and a pound of smoked turkey sausage from the freezer. I cooked the jambalaya according to the package directions (except I fried the sausage ahead of time, and added it halfway through cooking the rice), and topped it with chopped tomatoes and green onion, and shredded cheese left over from taco night.

Verdict? Very good. A little too much liquid, I think I'll use 2 cups instead of 2.5 next time. Toppings were nice, but probably unnecessary.

How frugal was it? Let's see if I can break it down - one tomato ($0.40), 1 green onion ($0.07), handful of shredded cheese ($0.50), 1 lb smoked turkey sausage (don't remember, probably $4?), 1 box of Zatarain's Jambalaya (free, this time). I fed 3 people, plus leftovers for 2 lunches, for under $5. Nice.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

PB&J

Thanks to Mission Street Food, brought to my attention via Bunrab's Daily Feed, PB&J is no longer Peanut Butter and Jelly.

It's Pork Belly and Jicama.

Sounds so much tastier.

I wonder what other pbj combos there are?

Not that it matters. Pork belly trumps them all.

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Back in Business

My beloved has returned!















So what's the first thing I did? Minced some garlic, of course.















Since I have the house to myself tonight (MIL's sleeping, Youngest went to LA, and Hubby's out with a friend), I made something I knew nobody else would eat. The garlic ended up in stir-fried yu choy with oyster sauce, with a scallion pancake on the side. I haven't been able to make a decent one myself yet, so it was store-bought.

And if anyone's interested, this is what scallion pancake looks like in Chinese: 葱油煎

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obsession

My Youngest is obsessed with everything Japanese.

She has a Naruto outfit, and Naruto posters on her walls. She lives on ramen. She passed BBC Languages A Touch of Japanese quiz. She's got a ton of anime books. She collects empty boxes of Japanese candy.

Here's her "Asian Box":















Yes, folks, she has a special box, just for her Asian candy. The contents rotate more often than they probably should.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taco Night!

Yes, folks, tonight was taco night.

See?






























No pic of final assemblage, 'cause...come on...take stuff from picture 2, put it on picture 1. Eat. Repeat.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fishy Dinner

Ever since I saw Eating Club Vancouver's post on milkfish, or bangus as it's known in the Philippines, I've wanted it. And then this weekend I saw it in 99 Ranch's flier, on sale for $1.59/lb. So down to the ranch I went. Once I got into the parking lot, I knew I was in for an adventure. 99 Ranch is always crowded on weekends, but this was insane!

I finally parked in a neighboring lot (behind the bubble tea place, sharing the building with the Vietnamese lawyer) and trekked over to the store. I waded slowly through the throngs of people towards the fish counter in the back.

It seemed like everybody in San Diego county was trying to get fish! The line, if you could call it that, was 3 deep. It would've taken forever to maneuver my way up to the front. And to do that, I would've had to jostle, displace, and otherwise piss off numerous Asian grandmothers. Not something I want to do on a Sunday (or any day, for that matter!).

So I gave up on the fish-counter milkfish. Wandering through the rest of the store, something that had started out as vaguely unpleasant on the edge of my perception started getting stronger. And funkier. And unpleasanter. WTF, durian! In a topless freezer case, open for everyone to inhale its ghastly aroma. Gag.

I finally made my way beyond the cloud of funk, to the frozen section, where I found frozen butterflied de-bone pre-marinated milkfish, and decided to give that a shot. All the work was done for me, and the whole thing was less than $5, so no big deal if it didn't turn out.














Did it turn out? Not so much. I don't really have an implement big enough to flip a butterflied milkfish that fills my largest skillet (and that's after removing the tail with kitchen scissors). So it broke in half. Then there was this weird gelatinous fat in the center, kind of grayish, the consistency of Jello. Ew. But the flesh itself tasted ok, almost like swordfish in texture (I think I overcooked it), but way too salty. Maybe I should have rinsed it more before cooking.

But after flaking some of it, and adding it to a bowl of rice with soy & oyster sauce sauteed yu choy, it tasted pretty good. Mostly because the saltiness was cut by the rice. But within half an hour, my stomach started gurgling, and not in a good way.

At that point, I said screw it. If I'm going down, I'm going down hard. So I salted up a yellowtail collar I bought at Marukai, and broiled it skin side up until it was done.















Or, from another angle:















This totally made up for the weird salty milkfish. I love hamachi kama in Japanese restaurants, but had never cooked it until now. Rich and fatty (but in a good way), not fishy at all, just pure yellowtail happiness.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Pogacsa with Pork Rind

I came across this recipe for Pogacsa with Pork Rind over at Kool Kat's Kitchen Adventures, who also has a blog in Hungarian if you're lucky enough to be able to read it.

Pogacsa is basically a Hungarian scone. They can be plain, or have any number of add-ins, such as cheese, poppy seeds, caraway seeds. They can be small or large, yeasted or not. When I saw Kat's recipe involving pork rind, I just had to make it. Crushed cracklings are great in cornbread, why not in a yeasty biscuity scone?

















I did have a problem, unfortunately, with the whole folding process. Wait, let's go back a minute. I had a problem getting my pork rind (chicharones, mmm) to chop in my blender. Kat's recipe says blend until creamy. Umm...not happening. So I chopped and chopped and chopped until the crunch under the knife became less noticeable (kind of like what I did with my cilantro "puree").

So when I spread my cracklin' crumbles (completely different from creamy cracklin's, as I would soon find out) on the dough, I knew I was going to have a problem folding. The first two folds went ok, but by the third, I was getting air pockets and the dough was tearing. But I had gone this far, I had to finish. I shortened the resting time in between the last few folding sessions, pressed the whole blob down to about an inch thick, and cut out squares. Baked until golden.



















The result? Honestly, not so great, not what I was hoping for. They certainly look tasty, with the happy little porky bits on top and throughout the flaky layers (I got flaky layers, yay!). But I think I undersalted the dough. And maybe I should've used buttermilk instead of yogurt. Will I try it again? Yes, if I somehow find a way to make pork rind cream. Or if someone else makes them for me.

By the way, do you like my new little orange bowl? MIL brought it home as part of a dip set, with 4 little bowls, all different colors, with a clover-shaped white dish that holds all 4. Taste of Home rings a bell, but I can't find it on their website, and the dishes don't have any identifying markings, not even a "made in China".

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Israeli Couscous Soup

I had a bag of Israeli couscous in my pantry, and finally put it to use, by making Mograbieh, from Anna of Morsels & Musings.

Mograbieh, from what I gather, is the name for Israeli or Lebanese couscous. It's bigger than your "normal" couscous, about 1/4" in diameter.

The recipe was simple - saute garlic and onion, add parboiled couscous and chicken broth, simmer until done, then add herbs, lemon and butter.

One of the called-for herbs was mint. I honestly don't think I've ever cooked with mint before - all I can think of is mint gum, and who wants that in their food? (Turns out I was wrong, and I'm so glad I didn't leave it out! I am still a little miffed, however, that I spent $2 on a stupid plastic package of mint.)


















This soup? Wow. Parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, added to the chicken broth, made for an amazing soup. (Hubby drank almost all the broth, Youngest finished it off.)

The couscous, unfortunately, wasn't so great. But I think that's because the bag I had was probably past its shelf life - the centers never really got cooked (little bit crunchy, little bit crumbly), while the outsides were ready to fall apart.

I can't wait to try this again using fresher couscous. I can also see using the broth minus the pasta, with shredded chicken and green onion.

I love soup weather.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Non-Food Post - Rain!

Well, sort of rain. More like a sprinkle. For about 30 seconds. But it's more than we've had in forever. Seriously, I don't remember the last time we had any sort of precipitation.

See? Dry on the left, "wet" on the right.
















Charlie was confused. Barked at it.

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