Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Think I’m in Love

With Earl’s girlfriend. Well, with Earl’s girlfriend’s cookies.


Earl is my coworker, and his girlfriend makes the most delightful little powdered sugar dusted, dulce de leche filled, flakey, sweet, light, delicious Peruvian sandwich cookies. Debbie—said cookie baker—is a Chinese woman from Peru. I can only imagine the plethora of wonderful things that must come out of her kitchen. Luckily though, I don’t have to dream up her cookies, I get to actually eat them. A lot. And while Earl claims we can have the cookie recipe, he continually only brings us the cookies… I come from a long line of secret-recipe keepers, so I know the score.


And for now, I’m ok with just getting cookies. Keep 'em comin'. Earl regularly brings the little bites of melt-in-your-mouth heaven to work. I regularly ask for seconds. Did I mention I’m competing against Earl in a work weight loss challenge?

Well played, sir.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Transformations

You may start noticing some changes around here. Luckily, my line of work gives me access to friends with mad-computer skills… especially in the design and development arena. And even more lucky for me, these friends like to eat, and are willing to work for food. Brian has been helping me with HTML, and as you may notice, my posts are wider! And my pictures are bigger! And… stay tuned, because there’s more to come! I started out with something pretty basic—a few pictures of food and some stories and a basic blogger template. I think I’m ready to take these individual ingredients, mix them together, and transform them into something delicious. Just like in cooking. Just like I did with my chocolate rum sauce.

As you know, I whipped up the rich chocolaty sauce to accompany my Valentine’s coconut bread pudding. In its first iteration, the sauce was like a boozy chocolate syrup. Straight out of the sauce pan it was hot, velvety, and smooth, dripping down the sides of the dessert and seeping into the custardy goodness for the perfect gooey coconut-meets-chocolate sensation.


And, while I can’t ever seem to make enough dinner for lunch leftovers the next day, I’m doing a fantastic job at making enough dessert to last an entire week. After pooling the chocolaty liquid on top of the remaining dish of bread pudding, I still I had about a cup of sauce that I poured into a container and stashed in the fridge for later use. After chilling for 24 hours, the sauce firmed up, transforming into a rich, fluffy, chocolaty mousse—which I proceeded to eat by the spoonful after work every day, in a state of utter bliss.


The other night at Amanda’s, the chocolate rum sauce once again transformed. We let it sit at room temperature and then whisked it until it was a creamy, thick, fudgey sauce. What better to do with such a delight than ice cream sundaes? Bananas foster ice cream sundaes! Amanda mashed up a couple bananas and heated them on the stovetop with some butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and a splash of kahlua, which we spooned over vanilla bean ice cream and topped with the creamy chocolate ganache.


Change is a good thing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love and Food

I spent Valentine’s day tired, hung over, hanging out with my parents, watching a movie in sweatpants with Evan and Amanda, and going to Mexican food with friends. And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Maybe it wasn’t all romantic and pink hearts, and chocolates, and roses...but I can’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s weekend than surrounded by love.


Mel and John were in town for the weekend, and we all went to Amanda’s dear friend Becky’s wedding. Ahem… the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Seriously, it was good… the food was fantastic (I had the pork tenderloin), the dancing lasted all night was out of control, the bride and groom were beaming, the room was filled with so much love… and there was a Dante’s hot-dog cart at the reception. Drinking bubbly, dancing with my sweetie, and eating cream cheese smothered hot dogs (a Seattle favorite)… can you think of anything more romantic? I certainly can’t. Except for maybe cooking with your valentine and enjoying an absolutely amazing meal together. Which is what Evan and I did on Monday, post V-day, to celebrate.


Now, Evan and I have had quite a few Valentine’s days together, so we’ve done the fancy Valentine’s restaurant dinner (Melting Pot and an Italian place), the romantic Valentine’s retreat (a stay in Leavenworth), the staying in thing (homemade sushi and 2 seasons of Nip/Tuck), and all those other Valentine’s activities that aren’t appropriate to talk about on a food blog. And after all that, we decided we really liked the staying in thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like to go out for a fancy, romantic, expensive meal now and then, but something about the prix fixe V-Day menu, the red and pink streamers, and sharing the day with all the other happily in love couples with their jewelry exchanges and hand holding… seems contrived. And that’s why we decided to recreate one of those fancy schmancy dinners at home, where we could really be ourselves, just the two of us (well, three if you count Biscuit).

First:
We started out with a lil’ bubbly and fresh raw oysters from my new favorite store, with a mignonette of vinegar, cilantro, jalapeño, vermouth, and shallots. They were so refreshing and delish... and Evan is now a shucking master. I only tried raw oysters for the first time a few months ago, and I think I’m in love (oysters, will you be my valentine?). I can’t believe I’ve missing out on them all these years!

Second:
After our refreshing first course, we had a lovely little salad of mixed baby spring greens, crumbled blue cheese, and shallot vinaigrette, and broiled oysters on the half shell with Sriracha lime butter—spicy and still tasting fresh and briny—a Food 52 recipe I highly recommend! They reminded me of the grilled oysters my dad used to make for us squeamish kids that refused try the ol’ shuck and suck method.


Entree:
For the main course, we went the surf and turf route. I steamed mussels and clams in a broth of vermouth, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, lemon, and green onions, served with crusty French bread for dipping. They were amazing. It was my first time making clams and mussels (crazy, right!?) and I totally winged it, throwing in this and that leftover from Evan’s cutting board. They were pretty great, I’d say they rival my favorite clams at Latona Pub.


Evan was a champion, and got right in there…preparing perfectly cooked NY Strip steaks with cilantro-butter melting sauce. He picked out the recipe and then tweaked it to our liking (cutting back on the butter and subbing cilantro for tarragon since his Valentine detests tarragon). He did everything—from mixing up the delicious marinade, reinventing the melting sauce, and cooking the steaks to the perfect slightly pink doneness—with only a tiny bit of help. It was delish!


Dessert:
Then for dessert, as if we weren’t already bursting at the seams, we had coconut bread pudding with chocolate rum sauce and vanilla ice cream. There's nothing better than the combination of coconut, chocolate, and rum... especially in a creamy, custardy, rich bread pudding. It was like an even more decadent and creamy version of the macaroon. I won’t lie… I had it for breakfast this morning.


Sharing in the love of two good friends, spending time with my parents and sister, and cooking a delicious dinner with my boyfriend… it might not be your typical Valentine’s day, but really, can you think of anything more lovely!?


Coconut Bread Pudding with Chocolate Rum Sauce

1 14 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 pinch salt
1 pinch fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 loaf of day old french or italian bread
unsweetened flake coconut
chocolate rum sauce

Tear bread in 1 inch cubes and set aside in a large bowl. Combine everything except the bread and butter, and whisk to mix well. Pour mixture over bread and stir (works best with your hands) to combine. Really get it soaked! Let sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x9 casserole dish. Transfer bread mixture to dish and dot with butter. Bake until the center is set, about 50-60 minutes.Top hot bread pudding with chocolate sauce and flaked coconut... delicious with a little vanilla ice cream on the side! Enjoy

Chocolate Rum Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups)
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 tablespoon dark rum

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add coconut milk and simmer until just bubbling, stirring often. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until melted, smooth, and well combined. Add rum. Serve over coconut bread pudding!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Down, but Not Out


Amanda had an eventful week…spreading her sore throat-sneezy-light headed-achy muscle scourge on to the masses. I didn’t take heed, and unfortunately my visits with her last week proved disastrous to my health. I spent the beautiful sunny weekend (that’s right, sun!) feeling crummy…but I didn’t let it stop me from good weekend eats!

I apologize ahead of time for possibly contaminating those of you that came to Bollywood Indian Buffet night on Friday… I didn’t yet know I was coming down with a nasty cold. Hopefully I didn’t pass my germs on to you via the awesome Indian food I cooked. I hope that I did, however, leave you full and satisfied and licking your chops all weekend.


For a spur of the moment dinner party, I finally ‘got my groove back.’ For the first time in months the sun was shining, giving me the inspiration I needed to put away the grilled cheese sandwich, roll up my sleeves, tie on my cute pink polka dot apron, and really get down and dirty (with my bad self) in the kitchen. And what better way to get down on a sunny Friday evening than with friends, beer, and a night full of flavorful Indian food!?


I love Indian food. I can’t think of another cuisine that has such depth, such bright, colorful, beautifully composed dishes, such a great use of creative ingredients, and such a big variety of creamy, sweet, spicy saucy recipes. I actually didn’t even try Indian food until college, and my first bite was of Aloo Gobi—the spicy, flavorful, comforting potato and cauliflower dish. It was history from there. Since then, I’ve fallen in love (madly and crazily) with the flavors of India. The spices…oh the red, orange, and yellow spices! Glorious!

Butter Chicken

On Friday night, when I still felt human-like, Evan and I had some friends over for an Indian buffet of homemade Aloo Gobi, Butter Chicken, Paneer Tikka Masala, cardamom basmati rice, cucumber salad, and storebought naan, samosas, and mango-ginger chutney. In my frantic cooking frenzy, I didn’t have time to write down the step by step how-to’s and whatsits of my recipes (a combination of a few recipes from the web, and my own taste, smell, touch, and sight). I did, however, have plenty of time to take pictures and make several trips down the buffet line!

Aloo Gobi

I awoke Saturday in a turmeric and garam masala coma, not to mention with a sore throat and stuffy head that persisted straight on through to Superbowl Sunday… rendering me *almost * helpless and incapacitated for the big game. Evan and I didn’t make it to any super bowl parties, and aside from the halftime show, we didn’t even watch the game. Party or no party, I wasn’t going to let my little cold stop us from enjoying Evan’s favorite part of Super bowl… hot wings.

I like me a good wing now and then, but Evan…now there’s a wingman. I live with a guy who loves his hot wings…good, bad, or otherwise, if it’s a wing, he’s eating it. I prefer the good (to the bad and otherwise) so I made Mel’s exceptional Red-Hot chicken, with a little twist (the twist being that Mel uses boneless chicken pieces, I used wings). I put together a small platter of both extra-spicy and mild wings, cucumber and celery sticks, and blue cheese dressing. Baked (not fried) these wings are seriously tender and good, without being soggy. The Franks hot sauce, melted butter, and brown sugar coating caramelizes on the wings, making them gooey, sweet, spicy, and chewy. Almost like chicken candy…is that weird? Well, if it is, then weird I shall be. Weird and extremely finger-lickin’ satisfied.


Mel’s RedHot Wings

I made about 16-18 wings, and this is what I did, alter accordingly:

For spicy wings, sprinkle cayenne or chili powder directly on uncooked wings, for mildly spicy, do not. Bake/roast wings, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 45-55 min, until they're cooked through and golden brown. (My wings were frozen... and I just stuck them in frozen at 400 for about an hour and 10 min, it’s variable).

Mix together 1/2 cup Franks Redhot sauce (original), 1/3rd cup melted butter, and about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Pour over hot wings and coat evenly. Stick back in the 400 degree oven for 10 more minutes, turning often. About half way through, sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top, and mix in. Cook until the sauce gets gooey.

Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, sauce will continue to goo up a little. Enjoy, preferably with celery, blue cheese dressing, beer, and not a trace of nasty contagious virus. And if all else fails, just eat the wings!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time Travel

Ok, first of all… I’m in some serious need of new photography supplies. I’m sorry about the weird yellowish-orange 1970s quality of my photos… it seems that my super professional photo studio (i.e., my bedside lamp and my point and shoot camera) can’t keep up with the lack of natural sunlight in these here parts. I’ll try to fix that...the equipment part, not the sunlight part. Although I would fix the sunlight part if I could…but for now, I guess its all “groovy” and “far-out.” That’s ‘70s lingo…right?


I’m not sure if it’s the lack of sunlight or what, but I just don’t have that much to tell you about right now. I mean, I’m clearly not starving or anything, but I’ve been a little unmotivated in the kitchen, and I haven’t gone anywhere particularly exciting. Not to say that I haven’t had some delish dinners, because I have, just nothing super special or eventful to share with you. I think Evan put it best: “we suck at eating lately.” Definitely not the stuff that good food-blog posts are made of.

But, the good news is…even though I’ve had nothing exciting going on lately…I just remembered that I totally forgot to tell you about this:


I think I teased you with a photo of it awhile back, but never got around to actually giving it the attention it deserved. And trust me; it deserves attention… a lot of it! So, in the spirit of time travel (1974 with my photos, 2009 with my recipes)....here's an oldie but a goodie!

I haven’t even told you about the amazing foraging we did over Thanksgiving. Sometimes I don’t even realize how awesome it was to grow up eating seasonally, locally, and naturally organic. During fishing season, we ate fresh salmon that Mel and John caught, and the rest of the year we ate smoked salmon that they caught, smoked, and canned. In the summers we had an over abundance of vegetables from the garden: tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peppers, peas, green beans, and squash. We also never ran out of home canned jam and pickles (if you haven’t tried Mel’s habanera dills, you haven’t lived). All of our eggs came fresh from our own chickens, and we even picked our own chamomile to make tea. As a picky child, I turned my nose up at a lot of this…never knowing how good I had it! Especially when it came to mushrooms. With a forest for a backyard, Mel and John have always been big on foraging for morels and chanterelles…which, as a child, I thought were hideous, disgusting things.

I’ve since changed my mind about wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles. And, why pay $13 a pound for measly little chanterelles when you can forage your own for free!? And that, my friends, is exactly what we did when Amanda and I were home for Thanksgiving. Mel, John, Amanda and I hiked up into the woods, past bear tracks, past snow, well past civilization…until we stumbled on a gold mine of fresh, golden chanterelles. On our hike out of the woods, Amanda and I dreamed up recipes we would make with our bounty. A teriyaki marinated flank steak with wild mushroom teriyaki sauce just so happened to be the first one I delved into.

This recipe creation for sweet, tender steak with earthy mushrooms is definitely a keeper...even if you hold on to it for a few months before sharing it. I recommend using chanterelles you foraged yourself, but any wild mushrooms will do! There are a few steps to this: marinade overnight, sauté mushrooms, make sauce, and broil steak... so be sure to read ahead before you get started!

Wild Mushroom Teriyaki Flank Steak
Serves 4

1 cup soy sauce
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (cider or red wine)
Fresh ground black pepper
1.5-2 pounds flank steak
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup fresh wild mushrooms- cut in bite size chunks
Splash red wine
Salt and pepper
Optional- fresh thyme

For Marinade: Combine first 4 ingredients (soy through pepper) in a bowl, stir to mix well. Pour in a large resealable plastic bag (zip lock freezer bag), and add the steak- seal bag. Make sure that the steak is well covered, and lay in a flat a dish that’s larger than the steak (I use a baking dish). Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turn the bag once or twice.

For Mushrooms: Heat butter over medium heat in sauté pan. Add mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Add wine, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until wine evaporates.

For Sauce: Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil, and remove the steak from the marinade, placing on broiler pan rack. Pour the marinade into a saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat for several minutes, reduce heat to low. Whisk together beef broth and cornstarch until starch dissolves. Add to the warm marinade mixture, and whisk. Add mushrooms. Simmer (stirring) until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency.

For Steak: Place broiler pan 2 to 3 inches from heat. Leave the oven door open, and broil 5-7 minutes on each side (for medium rare) up to 10 minutes on each side for medium well. Thinly slice steak across the grain, and serve with mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with fresh thyme.