Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thai Papaya Salad

Do you ever crave something you've never had before? No? Just me?

A while back, I was craving som tam (ส้มตำ), Thai green papaya salad, even though I had never had it before. Just looking at the list of ingredients, I knew I wanted it, knew I would love it. Shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, green beans, dried shrimp, peanuts, hot chiles, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce. I finally had it for the first time at Sab E Lee, and, seriously, I could do shots of the dressing, it's that good. Then recently I decided I needed to make it myself.

So I consulted with Leela from She Simmers, using her recipe, and asking her a couple questions along the way. I have a mortar and pestle, but it's the Mexican kind with the rough granite. My instinct told me I needed a smooth-sided mortar to make som tam, so I used a large cutting board and a metal bowl, and alternated between the granite pestle and my meat tenderizer. Don't laugh. It worked.

Aside from an altercation with the vegetable peeler, in which I removed a fair-sized chunk from my thumb, everything came together nicely. Lots of pounding, crushing, mixing, more pounding. It's a fair amount of work for a salad, but any time I get to pound on things, it's worth it.

Will I make it again? Hell, yes. But I think I'll ask my husband to peel the papaya.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part XIII


Youngest (to Dad): You have a condition you're not telling me about?

Me: He's pregnant.


"Dude, did you know that Bad Kitty likes olive oil?"

"Of course, all dogs like olive oil....f*ck...she's a cat."


I have epiphanies, like, all the freakin' time.


Yeah, but he's all big and gay. And those aren't qualities I look for in my men. That would be strange.


Youngest: She has way too many crisises. Crisisi?
Me: Crises. It's Latin.
Youngest: Like the pig?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pappa al Pomodoro

I had half of a baguette leftover that wasn't worth eating. Until I remembered that you could put dead bread in soup, as a way to thicken and a mark of frugality. Behold, pappa al pomodoro. I'm not sure exactly what 'pappa' translates as, but I think it's something like mush, hence: tomato mush. Not very appetizing, is it? I'll stick with pappa al pomodoro.

I used this recipe from Dana Treat, chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, and a little less basil because I didn't have enough.

Whatever you do, don't skip the garnish of baked basil and croutons. It's amazing. You could sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top if you wish, or even add some crispy pancetta. I didn't. And it was still good.

Pretty amazing for dead bread, huh?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lamb Ragu

With the weather being cold and nasty (well, for southern CA, anyway), I wanted something meaty and hearty. I came across this recipe for Lamb Ragu from the kitchn, and knew it was exactly what I was looking for. I also knew that my slow cooker would be perfect for the job.

I'm still wary of my slow cooker. I don't want to plug it in and and leave it on while nobody's home. I know, I know, thousands of people do it all the time. Maybe I'll get to that point eventually. But since I'm not there yet, I let the ragu cook overnight, then put in in the refrigerator in the morning. Reheated for dinner, it was amazing.

I altered the recipe only slightly, using dried herbs instead of fresh. The lamb was perfectly tender - I didn't need two forks to shred the chunks, just one smoosh and it fell apart. Acid from the tomatoes, sweetness from the carrots - everything blended together nicely. You could serve the ragu over polenta, potatoes, rice, whatever. I served it over this pasta because it reminded me of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (and it was also the perfect shape, almost like a Scoop chip, to hold the ragu).

My slow cooker may win me over yet...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fried Cardoons

What the heck is a cardoon, you ask? It's a big celery-looking vegetable related to the artichoke, that tastes a little of both. Oh, just go to Wikipedia.

How do you cook them? They're very fibrous, so they need to be boiled first. After boiling, you could cook them in a gratin topped with breadcrumbs. Or you could bread and fry them like I did.

Fried Cardoons
1. Trim any brown spots, and peel any accessible strings from the cardoons.
2. Cut into 2-3" pieces.
3. Boil for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Drain and pat dry.
4. Dip each piece in beaten egg, then in seasoned bread crumbs, pressing on the crumbs so they stick.
5. Fry in canola or vegetable oil until browned.

I served them with Caesar dressing. Marinara sauce would be equally delicious. Sriracha mayonnaise would probably be good, too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cornmeal Crackers with Dill and Grains of Paradise

Since it's now getting dark earlier and the weather's cooling off, I now have the desire to bake things. After the coconut chocolate chip cookies and the Nutella chocolate chip cookies, I was pretty cookied out, and wanted something not sweet. Crackers.

I found this recipe for Corn Crackers with Savory over at The World of Food and Cooking. Instead of the dried savory the recipe called for, I used dried dill and crushed grains of paradise*.

Exactly what I was craving. Dunk them in soup or top with cheese and an olive. Or just munch on them plain.

*I received the grains of paradise from Marx Foods free of charge. They didn't pay me to mention them or use their products. They're just a really cool company with lots of awesome stuff.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, after the coconut chocolate chip cookies, I still had some chips left. And Nutella. *cue light bulb*

A quick search brought me to Kirbie's recipe. So I made it.

And it was good.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I wanted to bake something, but didn't want to go to the store (lazy, y'know). I raided my pantry, and found bits and pieces of a lot of things. Nuts, fruits, seeds, etc. But what stood out was the chocolate chips and the shredded coconut. Cookies? Who doesn't like cookies?

I used this recipe from Gourmet, via Epicurious. Very good. But don't overbake them like I did on the first tray.

Chocolatey, chewy, cookie-y. Even the coconut hater in the house liked them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dried Ghost Chiles

So after making the hot sauce with the ghost chiles from Marx Foods, I still had a few chiles left over. Having absolutely no idea what to do with them, I figured I could dry them in the oven. (I saved the seeds, sending some to friends, and keeping the rest for myself to plant in a few months.)

My oven only goes down to 170, but I wanted to dry them at a lower temperature, about 150, so I stuck a wooden spoon in the oven door. Once again, I feel I must warn all of you about the fumes. My entire kitchen was filled with eye-tearing, throat-choking evilosity. (Yes, evilosity is a word, because I said so.)

So now these pretty chiles are safely stored in a baggie in my pantry until the next time I feel like spicing up dinner.

Aside: My Youngest told me: "You are not allowed to snort that line of seeds."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ghost Chile Hot Sauce

Remember the ghost chiles I got from Marx Foods? After using 1 tiny one in my Japanese curry, I needed to come up with a way to use up the rest. I settled on a hot sauce, and used Rick Bayless's recipe for habañero hot sauce, posted by Michelle at Thursday Night Smackdown.

Looks innocent, doesn't it? All orange and pretty from the carrots.

As it turns out, looks can be incredibly deceiving. I almost passed out when I was making the sauce. Twice. The first time was when the carrots, onions and chiles were simmering in cider vinegar. Look out for those fumes! Boiling vinegar combined with hot chiles is not a fun thing to inhale.

The second narrowly averted pass-out was after I blenderized all the ingredients, took the top off the blender, and (like the fearless/stupid chemist that I am) leaned my face directly over the blender to see what it smelled like. Immediately, my eyes were stinging and tearing, I felt like sneezing, and the breath that I was in the process of inhaling got stuck in my throat.

That being said -- this is one of my favorite homemade hot sauces. Sweet from the carrots, definitely spicy, tangy from the vinegar, and, um...oniony from the onions. Very good. Just be careful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part XII


This lasagne is awesome. It's almost a shame to eat it. It's like killing a unicorn. Like with a bomb.


"It's $48 a pound."

"That's more expensive than weed. Wait, no it's not. I lied. I don't know."


I hate the word 'secretion'. It's a horrible, horrible word.


H: You should be a doctor. You have the mind for it.
Y: I hate people. That's why I want to be a writer. That way I don't have to deal with people.


Douchebag - it's not so bad, you can throw that away. But doucheface? You're kind of stuck with it.


Never underestimate the power of a pretzel.


Dad, are you upset with how often I use the word "titties"? 'Cause I say "titties" a lot.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bacon Fried Rice

Who could ever get sick of fried rice? Not me. It's so versatile - you can make it a clean-out-the-fridge meal, or add specific ingredients (like shrimp and pineapple). This, my friends, is of the clean out the fridge persuasion.

I though about using Spam, given some online conversations I've been having, but I saw the package of thick cut bacon in the freezer, and decided to go with that. Here's my mis en place: clockwise from top left, carrot, red onion, chiles de arbol, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, bacon, and scrambled egg. Not pictured is the rice and the peas I added at the end.

Normally I use canola or peanut oil to fry the rice, but looking at the bacon fat left over in the skillet, I thought, Why not?

Husband said this was one of the best versions of fried rice, not only that I've ever made, but that he's ever had. Score.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicago Vacation

I recently spent 5 days in Chicago. What did I do? Visited friends and family. And ate a lot. I'm surprised I didn't gain 10 pounds. What follows is only some of what was on the table.

But first - the Bean. Because no trip to Chicago would be complete without it.

Dinner at Sushisamba was an epic experience. A friend of mine knows the chef (Dan Tucker, awesome guy), so we ordered nothing, just let him send things to the table.


Kobe beef, cooked by us on a hot rock:

And, my personal favorite, duck ragout on a corn arepa with cilantro cream:
There was more (much more), including a sweet corn fritter, a whole chicken, skirt steak with Malbec butter (!), etc., etc. This meal alone would have been worth the trip.

Filipino breakfast at Uncle Mike's Place. Longanisa, tocino, garlic rice, overeasy eggs.

The Purple Pig wasn't in the original plan, but was a spontaneous decision. And a good one it was.

Pig tails braised in balsamic vinegar:

Bone marrow!

Shaved Brussels sprouts with cheese:

Green onions with romesco sauce:

Breakfast at El Tinajon, a Guatemalan dish called revolcado. Piggy ears, tongue, heart, liver. Delicious.

Korean BBQ at San Soo Gab San:

I certainly enjoyed my brief culinary tour of my favorite city, even though I only scratched the surface. Looks like another trip is in order...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Japanese Curry with Ghost Chiles

Have you heard of ghost chiles? I've also seen them called bhut jolokia and naga jolokia. They're hot. Really hot. Hottest pepper in the world. They come in at about 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale, or 3-10 times hotter than a habañero.

I was lucky enough to get a sample package of fresh ones (only dried have been available until now) from Marx Foods*. I opened the package, and was immediately assaulted by their fragrance - they even smelled hot. I was a little apprehensive - what could I possibly do with a chile that's so strong? Well, first off, I gave a few away to coworkers. (None of the Americans wanted any, so they went to Mexicans, a Laotian, and a Korean.)

I realized I hadn't made Japanese curry in a while, and that sounded like a good (and easy) place to start. Armed with my package of S&B Golden Curry (mild), I chose the smallest pepper in the package.

Aw, how cute. What wasn't so cute was that I could find only one glove. So my knife hand went gloveless. While mincing, a piece of chile touched a cut on my hand. Ow. Burn. Ow. Yikes! Experiencing firsthand what this little monster chile could do, I decided to only use half of it in the curry. I used about 1.3 pounds of pork, and an equal amount of veggies (carrot, celery, green pepper, onion). So 2.5 pounds of stuff, with a piece of chile the size of my fingernail.

And you know what? It was good. Really good. Ghost chiles have an awesome flavor. I could've even added the other half of the chile, and it wouldn't have been too hot. (Husband called this a "3" on the hotness scale.) Maybe it's because it was simmered for a while, maybe because it sat overnight, but the heat definitely mellowed out.

So, experiment #1 with ghost chiles complete and successful. I wonder what's next...

*The chiles were provided free of charge from Marx Foods. I didn't promise to blog about them, and they didn't ask me to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I picked up some gorgeous king oyster mushrooms at Mitsuwa the other day - they sat in my fridge while I pondered what to do with them. I had already breaded and fried, and had also sauteed and sprinkled with smoked salt. Hmm, what to do? I looked outside at the rain, and - bingo - soup.

This recipe is almost exactly like my husband's clam chowder, just substituting mushrooms for clams, and chicken broth for clam juice. Chop the shrooms finely, along with some onion and a little bit of celery. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms lose most of their liquid. In the meantime, make a roux, then stir in some heavy cream, then some milk and chicken stock. Dump in the mushroom mixture, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a while. (Don't forget to stir!) To serve, dust with paprika, sprinkle with parsley (or both), and don't forget the crusty bread.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part XI


You've got to be an a$$hole if you don't like garlic and sauce.


"Hey Dad, did you brush your teeth this morning?"


"Oh,...that's nice." (Followed by an evil laugh)


"He said put the cortisone on it, and it'll go away."

"...Mi corazon...."


Husband: I'm going to the store. Do you need anything?
Me: Milk.
H: Milk? I was thinking more like tampons, douche...
M: No, that's your shopping list.


"Fried beef balls!"

"That was my next thought."


Nobody could f*ck with Lou Diamond Phillips.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Simple Tostadas

Tostadas are one of my favorite "healthy" meals. Sometimes I get complicated and make my own beans and tostada shells, but this time I opted for purchased shells, and beans from Compadre's (house-made, no lard).

You could also add any meat you want - pulled pork, shredded chicken, ground beef. Or skip the beans and top with ceviche. Endless possibilities. These particular tostadas were vegetarian out of laziness and lack of thawed protein.

There's no recipe, just spread some beans on the tostada shell, and top with whatever you want. This one had tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, cilantro, red onion, green olives, yellow chile, green chile sauce, Tapatio, and a squeeze of lime juice. (Yes, I have a tendency to over-chile.) No cheese, because I typically only use cheese when meat is a topping. But go ahead and use cheese if you want.

Visually appealing (look at all the colors!), always delicious. Great for when you don't feel like turning on the oven/stove. Lots of chopping, but worth it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Clam Chowder

Due to the crappy rainy weather we've been having lately, I had a craving for soup. I thought about going out and picking up some pho, or maybe menudo, but then my husband said he'd make clam chowder. Score!

He finely chopped celery and onion, diced potatoes, and sauteed the mix in some olive oil. While the veggies were cooking, he made a roux, then added heavy cream, broke up the lumps, then added 1% milk. In went the veggies to cook for a while, then he added a few cans of chopped clams (rinsed!), the strained liquid from the clams, and an additional bottle of strained clam juice.

He simmered the soup slowly, stirring frequently. (Creamy soups have a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot.) Pretty soon the soup thickened nicely from the combination of the potatoes and the flour in the roux. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things I've Cooked Lately, Part IV

"Deviled" eggs. With anchovies, roasted red peppers and capers. Oh, stop it. Most people who say they don't like anchovies have never tried them.

Sandwich with homemade pickles (cucumbers in peperoncini juice for 3 days). And yes, those are indeed Doritos.

Sardine omelette on a toasted bagel. Again, stop it, sardines aren't bad. You can get some very good imported Spanish and Italian ones.

Spinach and strawberry salad with candied pecans. I used Simply Recipes' method for the pecans, but used smoked paprika and cumin instead of sweet spices. The dressing was white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Hope you enjoyed the random collection. I'm sure there will be more in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sab-E-Lee Restaurant

After reading Kirk's and Kirbie's accounts of their visits to the best Thai/Lao restaurant in San Diego, I finally made it to Sab-E-Lee. And I'm kicking myself for not having gone sooner. I want to go again. Tomorrow. It's that good. (Even my husband loved it. And he purportedly "hates" Thai food.)

So here's what the outside looks like.

Inside is very tiny, only 6 tables. But that's good, because the rest of the space is devoted to their kitchen and the wonderful things that come out of it.

We started with the Papaya Salad, or Som Tam. Shredded green papaya, tomatoes and tiny green beans, dressed with pounded peanuts, dried shrimp, and lime juice, fish sauce, something sweet (maybe palm sugar) and chiles. This was amazing.

My husband had the BBQ Pork Neck, or Kaw Moo Yaang (thanks, Leela!). Extremely tender pork, served with a small bowl of a spicy dressing/sauce for dipping. We both loved it.

I had the Duck Larb (Larb Ped). Strips of grilled duck with the skin still on, with red onions, roasted rice powder and chiles. Spicy, tart, ducky, earthy. Delicious.

We're most definitely going back. There are so many other things on the menu that we have to try - Beef & Tendon Stew, Nahm Tok, Spicy Raw Beef, Thai Sausage...yes, I must really get back there soon.

2405 Ulric St.
San Diego, CA 92111

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Egg Balls

What the heck are egg balls? They're delicious eggy cheesy puffy things with a terrible name.

My best friend learned to make them from her father, and she passed the recipe on to me, but only after getting permission from her son, who has insisted that the recipe remain a family secret. She asked him if she could show me how to make them, and he said "of course, she's more a part of our family than some of our blood relatives". How warm and fuzzy.

So since it's a secret, I can't give you proportions. But it's not too hard to figure out. Make bread crumbs from a fresh French or Italian loaf. Mix in parmesan (NOT the green can, for God's sake), chopped parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Some chopped basil if you so desire. Beat in eggs, until you get something with the consistency of polenta that needs to cook a little longer. Kind of like a thin Cream of Wheat.

Heat about an inch of oil (vegetable, canola or corn) in a skillet. Use an ice-cream scoop or two large spoons to scoop up dollops and slide them (gently!) into the oil. Fry, flipping to cook all sides. As they're done, remove them from the oil, drain briefly, then put them in your tomato sauce.

On this particular night, we also had meatballs in the sauce, topped with sautéed mushrooms, along with fettucine.

But my favorite? Leftover eggballs and meatballs on a sandwich with provolone and torn basil.

So, there you have it - egg balls. Anyone have a better name?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part X

Please note: Slightly less PG than previous installments.


"Did you feed the puppies?"

"Yes...No...You mean food?"


Dad: "You don't want to go to the fight with us? Frank Mir is fighting."

Youngest: "Did you say I get free beer if I go to the fight?"


Dude, I'm like the black-up pan. I mean back-up plan.


I refuse to marry anyone that can't make his penis dance.


You got to watch me grow up into a lady. With tits.


Chester's hips don't lie. He IS the she-wolf in the closet.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Olive Bread

I felt like doing something productive in the kitchen, but was too lazy to go to the store (that seems to happen a lot, doesn't it?). Glancing through what I had on hand, I soon came to the conclusion that I had to bake something, since every protein product I had was frozen solid, and pasta with homemade sauce just wasn't what I was looking for.

So, the first part of the decision was made. But what to bake? Hmm...I've got yeast. And a new bag of flour. Yeast + flour = bread. (Of course there's more to it than that, but you know what I mean.) Then I saw the containers of olives in the fridge, and remembered Ravenous Couple's no-knead olive bread. Everything about it was appealing, especially the no-knead part (see above regarding lazy).

So I grabbed my Oxo cherry pitter, and set to work on the olives (Castelvetrano and a marinated mix). I love my cherry pitter, and it's allowed in my kitchen because it pits both cherries and olives cleanly, and therefore has more than a single function.

I halved the recipe, and was later extremely glad that I did, because the jiggly puffy bubbly dough rose pretty close to the top of the largest bowl I own. After a few hours on the counter and a few more in the fridge, I scooped out a very sticky glob of dough, coated it in flour because I was out of cornmeal, and plopped it into my pre-heated enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven. Into the oven it went, along with a tray of water below it to provide steam.

Ten minutes later I turned on the vent fan and removed the batteries from the smoke detector.

Twenty minutes after that I had delicious olive bread with a crackly crust. I had a slice still warm, spread with butter. The rest we ate with soppressata, Spanish ham, and cheese.

The best part? The dough keeps in the fridge for days, getting a little more sour with the passage of time. Four days later I had another loaf that was even better than the first.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Simple Tomato Salsa

Everybody likes salsa, right? It's so versatile - you can put it on top of eggs, fish, chicken, tacos, whatever. Or just eat it with tortilla chips (the typical mode of consumption in this household).

Here's my basic salsa recipe. (Yes, it's a lot of chopping. Make sure you have a sharp knife, and hide the tips of your fingers. Bobby Flay has a good video showing basic knife skills.)


3 large tomatoes
¼ - ½ red onion
1 serrano chile
1 jalapeño chile
1 yellow chile
a handful of chopped cilantro
the juice of ½ - 1 lime
1-2 garlic cloves (optional)

Quarter the tomatoes and remove the stem, core and seeds. (I freaking hate tomato seeds.) Do the same for the chiles. Dice up everything. I personally like ¼" pieces for the tomatoes and onions, and smaller for the chiles and garlic. Mix together, adding lime juice and salt. Let it sit for a while so the salt can work its magic on the tomatoes, i.e. it'll pull the water out so you have a salsa, not just a bowl of diced vegetables.

Serve. With everything.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things I've Cooked Lately, Part III

Well, that's a little of an untruth, because my husband cooked this for me one Saturday morning. He rarely cooks, and did this with zero pressure, input, or involvement from me. Fried pork chop, sauteed mushrooms, overeasy egg, with tortillas and green chile. I normally would've broken the egg yolk for the picture, but I was still in shock from the fact that the man cooked.

Getting back to normal, next up, braised cabbage with smoky bacon, recipe courtesy of Almost Bourdain. I used a Hungarian bacon given to us by friends that is absolutely amazing.

This time I remembered to crack the yolk.

This carbonara is from way back, when I made duck prosciutto. No cream. Don't you dare add cream.

Butter and store-bought bread. Why post this? Because I made the damn butter. And it was good.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pulled Pork Chilquiles

OK, I've done tacos and BBQ sandwiches, and I still have pulled pork left. Now what?


I fried up some corn tortillas into chips, then sauced the pork with the same chile sauce from the tacos, but added a little water. Heated a skillet on high with a slick of oil, dumped in the pork, stirred, then added the chips. Continued stirring and flipping until the chips softened (but not too soft, that's gross) and the sauce thickened, then threw in some cotija cheese. Dish out, top with cilantro.

You could also do this with a green chile sauce, either one works. What doesn't work is reheating the leftovers. Floppy chips are not cool.

And with that, I think I need to go vegetarian for a while.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Still having massive quantities of pulled pork after the tacos, I decided to do BBQ sandwiches. I made a sauce of cider and white vinegar, juices from the pork roast, paprika, Louisiana hot sauce, brown sugar and salt, and mixed it into the pork. I can't give you a recipe because it took a lot of tweaking, and I have no idea how much of anything ended up in there.

I also made a cole slaw, because you have to have cole slaw with BBQ pork sandwiches. Again, no recipe, but the dressing consisted of cider vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. I let it sit overnight in the fridge to de-crunchify the cabbage.

And then stupid me forgot to buy hamburger buns, and I didn't feel like going back to the store. So I made buns using this recipe from Confections of a Foodie Bride. They were absolutely delicious, but not really the soft pillowy buns I was looking for. They made good ham or roast beef sandwiches, though.

And here you go.

I still need to tweak the sauce a little. It was good, but I know my friend James was looking down at me from his cloud telling me I was doing it wrong.

I still have more pork left...