Category Archives: Uncategorized

Branching out and it tastes so good!

My go to cuisines are French and Italian, probably because of my undying love of cheese and butter, and the fact that these are what my parents, who both taught me how to cook, generally tended towards. This year I want to branch out and cook different types of cuisine, specifically various Asian cuisines. I started a little bit last year, cooking some recipes from 660 Curries, an immense tome that Andrew bought for me years ago. He gave me an ultimatum…cook twice from this book before we move or else it’s going to Goodwill. As December of 2015, I had cooked exactly zero recipes from this cookbook, so I was a little freaked out. The thing that had stopped me thus far was all the sub recipes. For any given recipe in the book, no matter how simple seeming, there seemed to be at least three sub recipes. They ranged from simple, like garlic and ginger paste, to more complex spice mixes (there are 4 different kinds of garam masala you say?). Finally, one Sunday when I was feeling rested enough to tackle a couple recipes, I made some ghee (clarified butter, yo…not too complex), whipped up about 8 tablespoons each of ginger and garlic paste (most recipes call for one tablespoon of each so I froze the remainder), bought some generic garam masala (let’s not get too crazy here people) and I was off! Of course I picked two Indian takeout faves, Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer. It took about three hours in all and the flavor ended up being pretty close to some of my favorite Indian places…although I have a suspicion that many places add cream to their sauces (the recipes I used only called for the clarified butter) which really does give them that richness.

My Indian adventure happened in December and to continue my culinary education, I recently purchased Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes and on Saturday, in preparation for a party which required a decent foundation, I whipped up one of their fried rice recipes. Whenever I cook rice for a recipe, I usually cook more than it calls for and freeze the extra for just this type of situation. Fried rice is actually better with day old (or more if it’s been frozen) rice. The day prior, I defrosted about three cups of rice, made sure I had the ingredients (the “strangest” ingredient for this particular recipe was fish sauce, which I already had for some reason, kicking it in the back of the pantry) and 30 minutes later, we had some delicious fried rice. I have to say, I could get used to this! I’m not even missing the cheese and butter!

Mind v. Internet: Organizing my culinary brain

In my journeys in and out of the internet, I am always reading, saving and bookmarking recipes, little tidbits of information that I find useful and interesting/informational articles. I use Pocket, which is an amazing app that is, shockingly, free! I have had the app for over a year and have saved and read so many articles (thousands?) using its interface and have yet to reach the limitations of the free version, which is rare with “Freemium” apps. Pocket is especially useful for saving recipes that I find on the blogs that I follow on Facebook, culinary people I follow on twitter and food articles that I find in the NY Times cooking section. It also has a search function so if I want to make a rice recipe to go with chicken but can’t think of one or don’t want to scroll through my article list, I just search for “Rice” and everything with the word “Rice” in the title shows up.

Organizing My Culinary Brain - Rice

I can also tag things to help organize them so if I am looking for a quick meal, I choose “quick” and recipes for quick meals show up. I do the same thing, to a lesser extent with other types of articles but this is especially effective for recipes.

Organizing My Culinary Brain - Tags

 

My brain, like the internet, is a MESS so it’s nice to have this nifty app to help make sense of it all! I might upgrade at some point because I actually feel a little guilty getting all of this for free!

 

The Year of Doing

It is a new year (2016!) and time for the annual reflection and resolution. 2015 was a good year. I got married the incredible Andrew Feldman after near nine years of dating! Other than that, nothing terribly significant. No big trips, not a lot new learned, rather a maintenance year, the kind of year you need to make you realize that you should probably get off your butt and do something with your life…so useful nonetheless. This year I bought a physical planner (Spark Planner), started using a To Do Lost app (Todoist) and set some goals. There are the usual goals, more exercise, more sleep etc. But also I would like to travel someplace completely new and out of my comfort zone and learn something new (a language, basic programing etc). I purchased a few classes from the site Udemy and hope that this will jump start my learning because it is pretty low commitment and I can do it from the comfort of my home. I have the usual feelings of hope and fear that come with the New Year and I think I can use both these things to make this year a year of doing. I’m 30 now which means I am both young enough to make some big changes and old enough to know how to wisely integrate those changes into my daily life. I look forward to chronicling this journey here!

Being (a little bit of a tourist) around Seattle

Friday afternoon proved to be decidedly pretty after a foggy and cool morning. I breathed a small sigh of relief when the hope that I felt as I donned capris and tank top at 5 am when I headed to work, turned out to be well founded. After sitting in the sunny garden with the cat for a relaxing half hour or so, I headed to meet Andy downtown at Kell’s. We were planning on meeting one of his work friends at Bookstore Bar for Happy Hourvlater and figured that the Kell’s patio was as good of a place as any to while away the time. Alas, it wasn’t to be. There were so many tourists that we were relegated to the dark back area by the bar (which is great on a rainy November afternoon with a pasty and a Smithwicks) but doesn’t really do it for one of the few nice days that we have had this “summer.” We made our way through the market past the Mexican grocer (no sour oranges yet – apparently they only have them for a short period of time when they are in season) and the fish monger (I love the salty, fishy smell. It is so Seattle) and out onto First Ave. As we debated where Bookstore Bar was, a very nice lady, probably mistaking us for tourists scrutinizing the Yelp App on our iPhones, asked us if we needed any help finding something. It was very sweet and made me feel like I was on vacation for a moment. As we walked down First towards our destination, I noticed that the street that was once home to the Lusty Lady, several head shops and other dark and dirty corners, had gone through something of a revival. A few cute shops have sprung up and some intriguing bars. Of course the SAM also lends it an air of, if not sophistication, at least artistic vigor…this is still First Ave after all and really, as a native Seattleite, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Bookstore bar is in the Alexis Hotel and across from Hotel 1000 so I am sure that there are quite a few tourists that go there. It is a unique spot though and a place that natives can enjoy as well for a few after work happy hour drinks and bites. The bartender wasn’t the best however, which was a little disappointing. I am always dismayed when bartenders who wear nice vests and look, well, “old timey” don’t make good drinks. It seems an affront to the profession. Andy’s work friend and her husband appreciate good food and drink so it was fun hanging out with them and they suggested our next stop, the ultra touristy yet awesome Ivar’s Fish House on the waterfront. Happy Hour from 3 to close. Enough said. It was packed but we got a table and sampled that calamari (plentiful and not too greasy and accompanied by a delightful sauce), a seafood cocktail with shrimp, prawns, crab, mango and avocado, chowder of course (tasty and the right consistency and quite bacon-full) and BBQ pork sliders on soft buns. Yummy! After an inexpensive snack, we decided to kick it up a notch at Zig Zag, just up the hill towards the market from the Waterfront. Many whiskies and good conversation later, we headed to 2nd Ave for late night eats at the newly remodeled Wasabi Bistro. Two rolls and two bowls of miso later, we felt we had the wherewithal to stumble into a cab and head home after a lovely extended happy hour, which is the best kind of course.

This is me trying not to screw up a $60 hunk of meat

I like to make something a little special on Sunday nights, something that takes a little bit longer and maybe requires a slightly nicer bottle of wine to go with it. Having never made a roast before, I thought that this would be a good time to start. I found a recipe for a standing rib roast in my “Nigella Kitchen” cookbook. It looked yummy that I ignored the fact that it fed 8 to 10 people…maybe I will have a lot of leftovers for sandwiches, I thought to myself. Or I could always halve the recipe. As there was no standing rib roast to be had at Fred Mayer (unsurprisingly), we made the trek to A&J Meats on Queen Anne, our go-to butcher for slightly less common cuts of meat. The recipe called for 8 lbs of meat. At $12.99 a pound, this would not do. Yes, I have been known to spend more on food and wine than I do on clothes and books but, this was beyond the pale. I went for 4 lbs and left the butcher $60 lighter but excited to see what I could do to justify the purchase, namely make something that didn’t give me the dreaded buyer’s remorse.

The recipe is fairly simple. After letting the meat come to room temp for 2 hours, I massaged it with a paste made from a teaspoon and a half each of truffle oil and garlic oil, 2 teaspoons of dry English mustard and a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. I then set it in a roasting pan with some sliced up leak, a couple tablespoons of marsala wine and the stems from the mushrooms for the sauce (I will get to that later). Following the butcher’s cooking instructions, I cooked it at 450 degrees for 20 min and then reduced the temp to 350 for about an hour for medium rare.

While that was cooking away and smelling soooo good (I LOVE truffle oil!), I drank a glass of wine, watched the cooking channel and prepared the mushrooms. I halved this recipe as well, sautéing 1/2 of a leek in some butter and garlic oil and adding about 2 lbs assorted wild mushrooms when the leeks were soft (about 10-15 min). I also added more butter (2 tablespoons) and a teaspoon of dried thyme  along with the mushrooms, cooked for 5 min covered, stirred and added salt and pepper, cooked for 5 minutes covered, added 1/4 cup marsala wine, stirred and cooked for a final 5 minutes covered. At this point I let the mushroom sauce sit off the heat, covered until the roast came out.

Mushroom Marsala Sauce

When the roast read 120 degrees at its center, I took it out and set it on a cutting board for 30 min where it would continue cooking to a perfect medium rare. While it was sitting, I added the cooking juices to the mushroom sauce and mashed some Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 lbs) with whole milk and cheddar cheese. When the roast was ready to cut, I added the juices that had accumulated on the cutting board to the sauce and while Andy carved, warmed up the sauce again.

Standing Rib Roast

Standing Roast Sliced..Medium rare perfection

And let me say…it was completely worth the $60. The meat was succulent and permeated with subtle flavor from the rub, pink in the middle with a beautiful crust on the outside. The mushroom sauce was slightly sweet (from the Marsala), perfectly complimenting the meatiness of the roast. I could have eaten that on its own but it went to well with the meat that now it would seem a crime not to pair it with this exquisite roast. In the end, I managed to  not screw up my first roast and am looking forward to steak sandwiches with blue cheese and watercress and a yummy leftover dinner tonight…with mushrooms on the side of course.

The Finale!