Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Oh, my. Seattle just isn't built for snow. Everything has come to a complete standstill, with buses, cars and garbage cans abandoned on street corners.

(My yard, in 3 inches of snow! I just realized our mini grill looks like a Stormtrooper)

(Our street at 9am)

And in case you wanted to see how bad it gets when a city that rains 6 months a year starts getting icy, here's a pretty funny-if-it-wasn't-so-tragic video taken near 20th and John in Capitol Hill - not too far from where I used to live.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Of the melting Arctic and electric cars

This commercial by Nissan for the new Leaf electric car makes me want to cry:

Oh, the power of advertising.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Easy weeknight dinner: Creamy tomato soup

Rain season is upon us. There's nothing more satisfying on a cold, dreary Seattle night than soup and bread. Tomato is one of my favorite soups, and is satisfying, comforting and absolutely delicious when served with some good Willamette Vally Pinot Noir, crusty bread and goat cheese. I always have cans of crushed tomato, dried herbs and vegetable bouillon on hand. This recipe is really easy and comes from years of being obsessed with tomatoes. It takes about half an hour to make from start to finish so it works really well for those evenings when all you want is to curl up on the sofa beside the fireplace with the dog, a good book, a bottle of wine and your favorite person in the world (who by the way, does NOT like tomato soup. *cries*)

Creamy Tomato Soup
Makes about 1 1/2 pints of soup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 carrot (yields about 1/2 cup diced carrots)
1 stalk celery
1/2 white onion (yields about 1/2 cup diced onions)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 can 28oz. crushed tomatoes (San Marzano works well)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 low sodium vegetable bouillon cubes (or about 1 tablespoons)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper *see note below

1. Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat
2. Add in the diced carrots, diced celery, diced onions and minced garlic. Add a tiny bit of salt to soften the vegetables. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
3. Add in the crushed tomatoes and saute for another 5 minutes until fragrant.
4. Add in the herbs, vegetable bouillon and water and simmer, covered for about 15 minutes until the carrots are softened.
5. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender. I like my soup a little chunky, so I don't go crazy with the pureeing. Add in the heavy cream and stir gently to mix. Season with salt and pepper and serve!

*Note: Adding salt and pepper as you go brings out the flavors more!

Boardwalk Empire

This is one of the few rare times I'm beating myself up for not having cable. From what I've seen, heard and read, Boardwalk Empire might just be the one series I'm going to be all over this Fall.

Prohibition era. Check.
Black comedy. Check.
Coupe martini glasses. Check.
Hats, gangsters and guns. Check. Check. Check.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The week that was: September 6 - 12

- Took the doggie for tons of walks
- Saw The Walkmen and Menomena live
- Got drunk on dry martinis at The Walkmen, felt terrible for three days after
- Saw Brent from Menomena's latest squeeze (fangirling moment! She kinda looked like Rebecca Gayheart)
- Made creamy tomato soup! Recipe coming soon.
- Bought a new necklace
- Got depressed reading this article at the bus stand - particularly about the cuts in education

Source: The Stranger

I've also decided not to renew my subscription to The Economist, although I probably will restart it in about 6 - 9 months. News these days just depresses the hell out of me, there isn't a single issue of The Economist that doesn't mention America's shitty economy, America's shitty political hullabaloo, dying people in the Middle East, China's double standards, climate change or just the sheer stupidity of some people who comment in the "Letters" section. I think as I age, I have become less tolerant of ignorance and asshattery and by jove, is this world filled with them.

Instead, I think I will spend the next half a year going through the whole list of Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th century, and working on my dissertation. I've read about 16 of those books listed; I found "Ulysses" to be rambly and quite tedious when I read it a good 10 years ago, but I might have to go through it again. I started with "The Sound and The Fury" which is proving to be quite a challenge to comprehend when you're sitting on the bus, bouncing around on disastrous Seattle roads. Maybe mindless shit like John Grisham novels would serve me better on those occasions.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Matcha ice cream

I finally caved in and bought an ice cream maker. Yes, I know. Cheesecake and ice cream, what gluttony. I got it in two days from Amazon Prime, and just yesterday, I ripped opened the packaging and froze the freezer bowl. I know summer is coming to an end, but ice cream will help me get through winter by proxy of fatty insulation. Go figure.

There are only two flavors I ever get in ice cream - vanilla and dark chocolate. However, my absolute favorite ice cream flavor is green tea (matcha). Unfortunately, I don't think any store bought ice cream ever measures up to the original Japanese stuff. So naturally, when I decided to buy the ice cream maker, the first recipe I wanted to try was a green tea one!

It's strange how making your own ice cream can be so deeply satisfying. And oh my god, is this green tea ice cream heavenly. I love that I am able to control what goes into my ice cream (guar gum? urgh!), and that I can add as much green tea or sugar as I want. This recipe is from David Lebovitz's A Perfect Scoop, courtesy of Use Real Butter. I may have to go out and actually BUY the book now that I am part of the homemade ice cream fan club. And please, for goodness sake, use powdered green tea i.e. matcha. This does NOT work with steeped green tea.

Matcha (green tea) ice cream
Yields 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
4 tsp matcha

1. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan.
2. Whisk the matcha and heavy cream together in a large bowl.
3. Whisk the eggs yolks slightly in a medium bowl. Continue whisking the eggs while slowly pouring in the warm milk mixture so as not to let the eggs curdle.
4. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and set over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens (see Note (a))
5. When the custard has thicken, strain over a fine mesh into the heavy cream-green tea mix while whisking vigorously.
6. Whisk until all the green tea has dissolved (see Note (b),(c))
7. Allow the ice cream mixture to cool and then refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. (see Note (d))

(a) The mixture is thick enough when it coats back of spoon i.e. it doesn't drip away quickly but is quite viscous. Make sure the eggs don't curdle!
(b) I find that it's quite hard to dissolve the matcha powder. The trick according to Harumi Kurihara is to use 1 tbsp of the warm milk mixture to dissolve the matcha powder, then add it to the heavy cream.
(c) For a smoother consistency, strain the final mixture again over a mesh before refrigeration.
(d) I have a Cuisinart ICE-21 which yields soft serve ice cream. To firm up the ice cream, freeze in pint/quart containers for about 3 hours. It comes out PERFECT.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Japanese Cheesecake

While the boyfriend is away over this Labor's Day weekend, I've decided that I am going to subsist on things that I don't usually have when he's around. This means all things dairy and deep fat fried. Yes, the boyfriend will come home to a more rotund, less appealing girlfriend.

That being said, I thought I'd kick off the solo weekend with some cheesecake and tea. How girly! However, I'm not a huge cheesecake fan. They come across as cloying, rich and sometimes bordering on nauseating. A slice of the Oreo crumbled one at The Cheesecake Factory is enough to send me into convulsions and regret for a month. On the two separate attempts I have tried at making my own low-fat cheesecake, I have failed miserably. One was a no-bake attempt that fell apart as soon as I removed it from the freezer. The other was a sugared-up hunk of cream cheese studded with graham cracker bits.

When I received the Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking cookbook last Christmas, I found that she had included a recipe for Japanese cheesecake that seemed fairly easy. Now, if you've never had Japanese cheesecake, you're in for a surprise. It doesn't taste as cheesy as your regular New York style cheesecake. It tastes a little bit more like a cross-between a sponge cake and a souffle. The difference is that a traditional cheesecake uses tons of cream cheese while a Japanese cheesecake uses more whipped eggs and minimal cream cheese. The result is an airy cake that doesn't cause coronary problems and is a really enjoyable treat when served with some warm green tea.

This recipe by Harumi Kurihara is really simple and as someone who REALLY HATES BAKING CAKE, it was fantastically easy to whip up. As long as your ingredients are at room temperature, you can make this in less than 15 minutes (not including baking time). Her recipe called for a 7-inch springform pan, I had an 8-inch. I improvised by making a quarter extra of the batter and crumbs. The cake turned out really great and I can safely recommend that if you're looking for an easy-peasy dessert, this is it.

Japanese Cheesecake (adapted from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking)
Makes a 7-inch baked cake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (100 g/3.5 oz.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (42.5 g/1.5oz.
1 cup cream cheese (225 g/8oz.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (112.5 g/4oz.)
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sifted all purpose flour (23.5 g/0.85oz)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Make sure butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. Line the a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
2. Soften the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs.
3. Pour the graham cracker mix into the bottom of the prepared pan and press down lightly to make a base. Preheat the oven to 340°F.
4. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft, then add the rest of the ingredients, in order, mixing each one thoroughly before adding the next.
5. Continue until the mixture thickens (about an extra 5 minutes after adding the lemon juice), then pour into the pan on top of the graham cracker crust. Bake in the oven for 45 - 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
6. Once it had cooled, remove from the pan, discard the lining paper and leave on a rack to cool completely.

Konosur's Notes:
(a)You can refrigerate the cake for up to 3 days in a cover container. It will become thicker and richer.
(b) I baked for about 55 minutes but the top did not turn golden. However, the top jiggle only slightly when I removed it from the oven - a sign that the cake is done. I think I will use the convection setting next time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Newsflash! This beer is the awesome!

I have left my world of kriging to bring you some tidings: Go get yourself some Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout! I swear Southern Tier makes some of the most addictive stouts in the world, and I'm going to go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and say that the Creme Brulee one might be my favorite. The Mokah comes a close second - but a good piece of dark chocolate and this magnificent stout can offset anything a bottle of good wine does to a girl. The creaminess, the overwhelming vanilla scent, the smoky caramel flavor. Oh my. Those silly boys and their hop fetish over at beeradvocate.com gave this decadent beer a B+. B+! Blasphemy! I suggest you go out and try this for yourself and decide if your Monday blues will be offset by what I would say is one of the most exciting beers I've ever had.

Vanilla come to mama.

P/S: Food, shoes and life updates are forthcoming, I promise.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A new direction

I've been suffering from existentialist issues of late. I guess according to Kierkegaard, I must be rejecting my bourgeois moralities. I'm not sure what that means, but I think it means that I'm burdening myself with "nobler" concerns i.e. the weight of the world. I guess it comes from reading all those dry prose in The Economist.

I've decided that I really don't have time to cook and photograph and arrange everything to look impeccably pretty. I think I would rather like having some time to sit around, stare at the wall and indulge my pretentious, hipster philosopher phases while cutting my wrists to ...Trail of Dead. That aside, I also think grad school is slowly killing me, both physically and mentally. I've been subsisting on Amy's Kitchen microwave meals and an unhealthy diet of ice cream while simulating snow melt thousands of miles away in Siberia. I think the weight of things these days (economy, work, life) and the fact that I have a tendency to overthink, has made me impatient when it comes to both eating and cooking.

That being said, I think I would like to turn this blog into something more of a personal rant page, peppered with food posts (I still love food!), silly girly things like shoes, and a whole slew of random things like political and cultural gibberish. I think it's more fun for me than to spend 20 minutes on taking a picture of melted cheese on a sandwich.

I hope many of you would still pop by every now and then because I really do enjoy having this blog and I promise there will still be some really good recipes to share. Also, hopefully my rants will be coherent enough to elicit at least some form of amused chuckle and my random posts would contain something pertinent to your life that you find interesting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Easy baked chicken

In our house, I make it a point to have a whole organic chicken in the freezer at all times. I usually get the butcher at the store to cut it up for me so that it's easy to thaw and easy to cook. Sometimes I use parts of it - like breasts for marsala chicken or thighs for stir fries, but lately, my favorite recipe is a one pot dish that lasts us for a few days.
While most people make roast or rotisserie chicken a staple in their monthly menus, I find that baking chicken is faster, easier and requires much less work and cleanup. All you have to do is get cut-up chicken, rub with herbs and spices and pop it into the oven. The leftovers can be used in wraps, salads or simply heated up to counter the effects of a night of heavy drinking.

I know this is a superbly simple recipe that has made its rounds on the food blogosphere, but to me, it's something so supremely easy that everyone must try it at some point and be wowed by such a great dinner fixin'. This is my regular take on baked chicken using my favorite herb mix of paprika and Mediterranean herbs, but you also make this with teriyaki sauce, a combination of other spices or a really spicy chicken with cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder and dried cilantro.

Easy baked chicken

1 whole roasting chicken, about 4lbs, cut into 10 pieces with back removed
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Olive oil

Pat the chicken pieces dry and lay them down in a roasting pan, skin side up. Put the bigger pieces like the breasts and thighs in the middle of the pan.

Massage the chicken all over with the herbs and spices and drizzle GENEROUSLY with olive oil.

Pop into preheated oven at 400°F for about 35 minutes + 5 minutes for each pound of chicken. So a 4lb chicken would take about 55 minutes. Double check with a meat thermometer - 180°F for chicken breast piece to be cooked.

Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes and serve.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Easy weeknight meals: Beef Stroganoff

There are a few things in my kitchen that I am willing to spend an obscene amount of money on: cheese, bread, milk and anchovies. I love cheese to death. Give me a wedge of Stilton, some good French bread and wine and I'll call it a good meal. Unfortunately, during those rare times I decide that goat cheese and crusty baguette would suffice for dinner, the boyfriend would have to resort to ramen. I sometimes can't help but feel so terribly sorry that he would never be able to have cheesecake or creme brulee or all the wonderful food that cream and cheese creates. I do try however, to hunt down dairy-free alternatives that would work just as well as the real thing - Earth Balance shortening for chocolate chip cookies, garlic sauce instead of tzatziki, Rice Dream in mashed potatoes and soy yogurt in potato salads.

We recently discovered a dairy-free alternative to cheese and sour cream at Whole Foods. I can vouch that the sour cream by Vegan Gourmet taste almost like regular sour cream, with a slight soy flavor that mellows out when added to dishes. In fact, I think their sour cream is so much like the real thing that I've started using it in fajitas and tacos. So for the first time in his adult life, the boyfriend is finally able to try beef stroganoff - not just browned beef and egg noodles, but the whole creamy deal. It's rare times like that I think technology and chemicals have made life that much easier for a handful of people.

This is the recipe I use for beef stroganoff - you can substitute beef slices for ground beef and I've also listed the regular, dairy versions that can be used.

Beef stroganoff
Serves 4

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance)
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced, stems discarded
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup marsala wine (or sherry or red wine)
1.5 cups sour cream (Vegan Gourmet or regular)
1/2 cup milk or Rice Dream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 0z. Egg noodles
Fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the egg noodles according to directions. Drain the cooked noodles, return to pot and toss with a tablespoon of butter. Cover to keep warm.

Heat 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet, add the ground beef. Use a wooden spatula to break up the chunks and sprinkle with a little salt and ground pepper, paprika and Worchestershire sauce. Allow the beef to brown without stirring - about 6 minutes. Flip over, sprinkle again with salt and ground pepper. When all the beef has been browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

To your pan, add the remaining butter and toss in the onion and mushroom. Sprinkle lightly with salt and allow the onions and mushrooms to brown. Remember not to stir as stirring prevents browning. Once the onions and mushrooms have been browned, add in the marsala wine to deglaze the pan, scrapping the browned bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat and allow the wine to reduce by half and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting.

Add in the beef, sour cream and milk. Stir gently until the sour cream has melted and a rich thick sauce is created. DO NOT BOIL! Season with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles and sprinkle generously with the chopped parsley.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Question for Lost maniacs

How did Jacob ever get off the island to meet with the candidates to persuade them to go the island?

The Sunday that was: Cochon 555

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to snag some coveted tickets to Cochon 555 as part of the Foodbuzz Foodie Correspondent Program. In case you've never heard of Cochon 555 (which I haven't either, up to this point), it is "a culinary event featuring five chefs, five pigs, and five wine makers in a friendly competition for a cause." And let me tell you first hand that five pigs can feed A LOT of people.

This year's Cochon 555 took place in the Bell Harbor Convention Center right down by the waterfront, which I think is venue that represents Seattle really well. Inside the dining hall, we were first greeted by a cheese selection from DeLaurenti and crackers from Macrina bakery. Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats down in Portland was on hand to demonstrate how to butcher a whole pig. That was by far the most interesting thing I saw at Cochon 555. There were also slideshows of cute berkshire and mangalitsa piggies projected on screen while slightly buzzed people noshed on pulled pork. I don't know if that was in good taste, but I am so glad Foodbuzz gave me the tickets because I had an incredible time; I drank and ate more than I should have (trusty Mr.Tums fixed the problem this morning) and talked to some very interesting winemakers and foodies.

And the piggie said, "Bleu cheese!"

My favorite chef for the event was Tamara Murphy of the now defunct Brasa restaurant. For some reason, her restaurant was never really that amazing, but my goodness - the menu for Cochon was absolutely delicious. I thought her chorizo sliders were the cutest thing ever and tasted perfect topped with slivers of blue cheese, a bowl of chili verde on the side and complete with a glass of 2008 Pinot Noir from Elk Cove Vineyards.

John Sundstrom of the almighty pretentious Lark ended up winning the event, and to prove my point of his almighty pretentiousness, his menu included tarte tatin with bacon caramel. Pretentious but delicious, I suppose. I couldn't get a picture of the tarte tatin close up because people were jostling and I swallowed mine in a split second lest some person kicked me in the shins and stole mine. I did however manage to grab a photo of John Sundstrom himself smiling knowingly, and a man in the background that looks strangely like Steven Spielberg (Do the Waldo thing)!

We managed to sneak in some nerdy chat time with some people from Elk Cove (3 kinds of Pinot!) in between lining up for the food samples. The gentleman very kindly suggested pairing the pate from Chester Gerl of Matt's in The Market with the estate Riesling. The other noteworthy small plates I liked were pork dumplings in dashi sauce from Adam Stevenson and a pulled pork dish with sparkling apple cider from Anthony Hubbard of Chow Foods. Also, the "head" chorizo by Mr. Gerl was quite amazing (On a side note, I went to Matt's once for my birthday and found it a little subpar, but I might have to try them again based on their perfomance at Cochon!).

I think many of the food items conjured up by the Seattle "superchefs" were pretty interesting. Most were your standard high-end cafe fare while others were slightly more upscale. The only thing I did not care for were these really gross looking red velvet cupcakes with lard frosting. They tasted sort of like a cross between rancid Betty Crocker canned goop and Safeway cupcakes.

At the end of the day, I went home stuffed with pork goodness, and stumbling slightly from some really good wine. Thank you, Foodbuzz for the great opportunity and here's looking forward to next year's Cochon 555!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A lemon and lavender cake for Mother's Day

Not too long ago, I was seized by some unbearable need to purchase a bag of 20 baby lemons at Whole Foods. I don't know if it was being in Whole Foods that made me feel I needed to spend money, or if was the fact that lemons somehow scream summer and that in the middle of May, Seattle is 46 degrees and raining. Lemons have an uncanny ability to look attractive in any spot they sit in - in a bowl, in a pasta dish, in a roast chicken or in a cake.

But back to the lemons, I call them baby lemons but in my uneducated citrus-food guess I think they're just dwarf-sized lemons. However, they came unwaxed and bright-yellow for the affordable(!) price of $4.99. I had stumbled on a recipe at formerchef.com for a lemon and lavender cake that I wanted to try really badly and a monstrous bag of lemons seemed like the perfect excuse.

Back home, I also figured out a way to trick Brian into allowing me to have the cake. My first trick was to turn the cake into a non-dairy one by using rice milk instead of the regular dairy version (Aha! I have him trapped, we're both gluttons now). And the second trick was to use this as Mother's Day prototype to dedicate to both our mothers who are stuck in their morbid jobs far away from us. Also, I think I deserve to celebrate mother's day since I believe I have done a pretty decent job "mothering" my very rascally dog for the past two years.

So, here's my take on the lemon and lavender cake by Kristina at formerchef.com. It should serve well at a Mother's Day brunch with some nice finger sandwiches, tea and strawberries with lots of cream! I used light olive oil instead of vegetable oil, unwaxed lemons and organic lavender flowers; suggestions for swaps are listed in the recipe. You can make this one day ahead - seal tightly with a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil and store in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge about 90 minutes before serving. It should still be moist and delicious.
Naked lemons always make me feel sad.

On a side note, I won a Foodbuzz giveaway to Cochon 555 which is an event that has some famous Seattle chefs killing a whole pig and serving it to us. Oh, and there's also wine! I'm excited because I may be able to rediscover my Asian gastronomic roots by noshing on crunchy pig ears. Hurrah!

Lemon and lavender cake
Makes a 7" round cake or 8"x5" loaf

1.5 cups all purpose flour (200g)
1 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rice milk (120ml) (or just use regular milk)
1/2 cup olive oil (120ml) (or swap vegetable oil)
2 eggs
2.5tsp lemon zest
1.5tsp dried lavender flowers

1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey (113g)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray your baking pan with cooking oil or just rub some oil using a paper towel.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, lemon zest and lavender flowers. Create a well in the large bowl and pour in the egg mixture. Stir gently until all ingredients are just combined. Pour into prepared baking pan.

Chuck into oven and bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Stab it with a small knife and if there are no soft crumbs sticking to the knife, it's done. Otherwise, check at every five minute intervals.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven. Let it cool in the pan and you can start on your glaze. Heat all the ingredients for the glaze in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and the glaze is slightly viscous.

Stab your cake all over with a chopstick or a skewer and pour the glaze all over it. Leave it to soak for about 5 minutes, remove from the pan and it's ready.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to make Chiu Chow Chili Oil

If you're crazy about spicy foods like I am, you might benefit from making your own chili oil. While regular chili oil is super easy and cheap to make at home, I prefer the more dramatic flavors of Chiu Chow chili oil. It spices up noodle dishes, can be used in stir-fries and is a must in Sichuanese cuisine. The stuff you pick up at the Asian market is usually filled with preservatives, or in the case of Lee Kum Kee, an insane amount of salt (which also acts as a preservative).

Chili oil is basically oil infused with chili to impart that smoky, spicy taste to the oil. Traditional chili oil is filtered to remove the dregs such that the resulting infusion is clear and light. Chiu chow chili oil is slightly different from the traditional chili oil in that it usually contains a mixture of chillies, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. You can use both the infused oil and the dregs in cooking. I personally use the oil for stir-frying and the dregs I eat it as a condiment to pho and wonton soup. I have it in my pantry all the time and have basically substituted this for the artificial pastiness of Sriracha.

To avoid botulism and the various incapacitating hazards that go with infusing oils, I strongly suggest using dried ingredients and making sure you avoid getting any of the ingredients or tools wet while you are making this. This recipe is really easy to remember - it uses a 1:3 system. It also keeps for a long time, so you can make a big jar of it and use it for lightning quick chili fixes.

Chiu Chow Chili Oil
Makes about 250g.

1/2 cup peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons dried chili flakes
3 tablespoons fried onions, crushed with the back of a spoon into fine crumbles
1 tablespoon dried garlic granules

3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon light soy sauce

Heat the peanut oil and sesame oil in a pan over very low heat for about 6 - 7 minutes. Your oil should be hot but not smoking or boiling. You don't want to scorch your chilies.

Assemble all the remaining ingredients in a CLEAN, DRY glass bottle. Pour the hot oil over the chili mixture, mix gently with and let stand until cool. Seal tightly and leave at room temperature for three days. And on the third day, chiu chow chili oil is made! Make sure to use a clean, dry spoon every time you use your chili oil - the chili oil should keep for up to two months at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stories from my kitchen, deep in the recesses of the Grad School abyss.

The average graduate student in the United States takes 6.7 years to complete a PhD. I can tell from experience that this is a statistic of high significance. Earning a PhD. (and by earning, I sincerely do mean earning) is one of those things that you enter into thinking you'll be the one heroic person that won't ever be sucked into the black hole of procrastination and despair, and yet as you ever so gracefully fight your way through the torturous mount of journal articles, research assignments and unfortunate talks by dawdling old grandfathers, you feel as if the fight was already lost the moment you applied for graduate school.

I have been so despondent lately with the prospect of dragging this degree out beyond a decade that I have sunk into another unfortunate hole that graduate school digs for you: the hole of prepackaged cookies, microwave meals and tinned soup (horrors!). I sometimes think that cookbooks really should never be called cookbooks because really, in times of crises, they have absolutely nothing to offer! I do not have a single cookery book in my house that offers me advice on what to whip up when I'm tired, cranky and sully at 3am in the morning. I most certainly do not look kindly on Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's butchering of a pig to make stew when I'm dying from hunger. I do not want to raid my spice cupboard after a nasty day at work for any of David Tanis' supposedly easy homecooked meals. And so I am resigned to tinned soup and Healthy Choice packet bought in bulk at Costco.

But all is not lost dear reader, for I have decided that while I will be no Thomas Keller, I will also not subscribe to being Julia Dreyfus. I also do not intend on being 20lbs overweight on Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. Here's a sneak peek on what I will try to make more of on this blog: fast, healthy meals that can be prepared in no time and that taste better than anything your local Target can peddle.

Thick slices of full rye bread with lax & dill

Nicoise salad with smoked salmon

Leftover challah bread turned into french toast

Spanish rice with andouille sausage, spinach and pancetta

Friday, April 2, 2010

A little over three months is a long time to be getting my New Year's Resolution started. In between moving, going on a holiday, a surgery or two, school and general laziness, cooking has taken a backseat. A severe backseat, I might venture to say. I have had the opportunity to savour some of the finest from Safeway's frozen aisles and subsisted on copious amounts of rotisserie chicken and bread. In fact, my wine rack is so miserably barren, I feel an inconsolable amount of sadness.

All these leads me to the question of when will Coolio get his due and have his 76 or so ghetto-fab recipes featured on Konosur? As he would put it, "I've got no friggin' idea, shazam!". I really don't. But what I do now is that I have a pretty decent kitchen right now with a fancy shmazzy gas stove (gas stove!), a convection oven and several really good cookbook I've been dying to get (eg, David Tanis' 'A Platter of Figs' and 'The River Cottage Cookbook').

After a couple of seriously hectic and mind-numbingly dull weeks, we finally got our CSA box in this week. Spring is in transition and the first shipment of strawberries came. I think I might try making some rose-scented strawberries for Easter this weekend. But for now, I've put my aging carrots and bananas to good use for a fine breakfast coffee cake. This is probably nothing new, but it's a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover carrots and bananas. I made this super easy cake for us , and a carrot/banana puree for the dog. Nothing goes to waste in this house.

Carrot and Banana Loaf Cake
Makes 12 slices

1 cup unbleached AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 bananas)
1 cup grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x5" loaf pan.

Mix together sugar, oil, eggs and applesauce in a bowl. Stir in bananas. Gently fold in flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda, alternating with the grated carrots. Fold in chopped nuts until just well mixed.

Chuck it into the preheated oven and bake at 350°F for 50 - 60 minutes until the "test"** shows the cake is cooked through. Remove from oven, leave to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack, cool for another 5 minutes, cut and serve!

** Test refers to the thin knife/skewer method, you know what I mean.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Year's Roast-olution

2009 went by in such fury I cannot believe it's already mid-January of a new year. I think somewhere along the way - amidst the hustle of grad school, taking care of a crazy dog with thyroid issues, and trying to save a nickel for myriad reasons, I lost the will and drive to cook. Most days at the end of 2009 were spent eating store-bought rotisserie chicken, having canned soup for lunch and gorging on raspberry croissants from The Essential Bakery during tea-time. A combination of these eating methods have not only left me inches bigger but I swear I'm more lethargic, more acne-prone and more

My belated New Year's resolution includes these things that I hope you dear readers will share with me:

1. Cooking all 76 recipes in Cooking with Coolio in 365 days. I received the cookbook for Christmas and have been constantly bemused and somewhat befuddled by the names of recipes (Yappa Dabba Snappa!) and funny descriptions. Fo' shizzle!
2. Cooking on a budget - reading through Coolio's cookbook and having had discussions with some food-discerning friends, I've come to the conclusion that trying to eat well and healthy these days really does cost a lot.
3. Cooking ethically. Speaks for itself.

In the meantime, to start off my resolutions, I went to the Farmer's Market on Saturday and bought a frozen pastured chicken. The fresh chickens were about 50cents/lb more expensive and the very nice lady told me to go for the frozen chicken instead and let it thaw out in the fridge over two days. Since all my herbs died in an early frost (and because I allowed them no water or fertilizer over September), I am using dried herbs for this recipe and it works equally well - particularly since it's winter and when else better than to use dried herbs. I plan to split this meal into four parts for Brian and I; you can be pretty sure we'll be sick of roast chicken by the end of this week. The recipe is an adaptation from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Giada de Laurentiis' roast chicken recipes, cooked in a cast-iron skillet for ease of preparation and crispy well-done skin. Put that stupid, overprice All-Clad roaster aside and taste the magic of Lodge Logic.

Easy Skillet Roast Chicken
Makes 4 servings and leftovers!

3 lbs. fresh/frozen chicken (preferably organic/pastured)
1 head garlic
1 lemon
1 orange
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried oregano
Finely ground pepper
Olive oil

1. Remove your fully thawed chicken from the refrigerator and rinse it gently with cold water.
2. Wipe the inside and outside completely dry with paper towels (remember to compost your paper towels!). You want to make sure the chicken is super dry or else it will steam in the oven and produce wilty-slimy skin. Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, covered in paper towels so that the any remaining liquid is soaked up. Salmonella schmonella. Pish.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a stovetop burner, set your cast-iron pan on medium heat to warm it up. If you're using a roasting pan, chuck it in the oven for a brief while.
4. Rub some salt and pepper into the cavity of your chicken.
5. Smash and peel your garlic bulb, quarter your lemon and orange. Stuff two lemon quarters, two orange quarters and about 3/4 of the garlic cloves into the cavity of the chicken.
5. Sprinkle salt and pepper, oregano, marjoram and paprika over your chicken. Top with a few glugs (as Jamie Oliver will say) of olive oil and rub the spices all over your chicken. It's quite obscene, but your raw chicken will love the massage. Make sure you get all the nooks and cranny and both sides of the chicken.
6. Truss (fancy term for tie) end of chicken drumsticks.
7. Set marinated chicken onto heated cast-iron pan or roasting pan gently and chuck into preheated oven.
8. Roast at 400°F for 40 minutes and 450°F for 15 minutes until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thighs is about 160°F.
9. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Serve with warm potatoes, chicken gravy and tons of wholesome vegetables.