Friday, November 9, 2012

singing its braises

by Lisa

Last night, some magic occurred. I placed some wedges of cabbage in a pan, sprinkled over it carrots and onions, and poured some olive oil and broth over it and let it braise.

It only took reading two paragraphs of Molly Stevens* to be convinced to plan to braise the very next meal I would make.

We all know that braised food tastes amazing. But the science behind it we rarely think about. But Stevens' description of the cycle of flavor evaporating, condensing, and stewing again helped explain how this method of cooking transforms a dish, giving it the depth of flavor unique to braising.

I knew I needed to make her cabbage recipe - so rustic and delightful, one of those dishes that you know tastes a million times better than it looks.

I had gotten home early from work yesterday, so David and I walked to the store, like Parisians - only, we were carrying a backpack - and gathered the ingredients for this homely meal. (Note to self: Walking to the store and knowing you have to carry everything back on foot is built-in protection against Buying Everything In Sight.)

Although this dish on its own would probably satisfy me (I could probably eat the whole thing myself), I knew that Kenny would want some meat, so we got some pork chops as well.

And since the braise takes two hours, I had some time on my hands and decided to make chocolate cornstarch pudding for dessert (another post for another time). You should too. Rustic plus trashy-classic is always a success. I suppose it's comforting.

Truly, the art of uncomplicated cooking is so restorative.

(Aside: I also hope to make this caramel pudding soon. Thanks, Stephie!)

The World's Best Braised Cabbage
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising

2 lb head of green cabbage (it's not that big looking, but try to not go over in weight), cut into wedges (keep the core to hold the wedges together)
1 large yellow onion, sliced thick (this part was the best - they get so caramelly - so I would maybe even throw in two)
1 carrot, sliced into coins
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use your best)
1/2 cup chicken broth, or water (I increased this from the original recipe)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 325. Lay cabbage wedges in a 9x13 glass baking dish (or a gratin pan if you have one). Try to make it fit in one layer. Scatter onion and carrot over cabbage, then drizzle olive oil and broth, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours, turning the cabbage over once at the halfway point, adding more broth if dry. Before serving, remove foil and raise oven to 400, allow to brown slightly, about 15 minutes.

*Her book is perfectly titled All About Braising. Now I just want to use that phrase, all the time. "I'm 'all about braising!' What?! I am!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the stories will come

by Lisa

Today I bring you another post. Two posts in week! Even two posts in year is almost like setting a record now!

(That's how productive I am.)

The stories will come, I tell myself. For now, I must just post, post, post.

Today's dish is one of Kathy's favorite. It's a homey, Vietnamese tofu with tomato dish that I imagine every family will make differently. Considering I'm not Vietnamese, I'm sure mine is like none other. Huzzah!

"Vietnamese" Tofu and Tomato

1 package fried, cubed tofu (I think it's 16 oz? I threw away the package. It cost me about $2.)
3 tomatoes*, cut into wedges
1 large onion (or 2 small), sliced (in the direction of stem-to-root)
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled, but not minced (for the lazy)
6-8 oz (1 small can) tomato sauce**
1-2 cups water, depending on how much tomato sauce you use (see note below)
1-3 T fish sauce, to taste, also depending on how much water you use...
freshly ground black pepper
sliced green onions, for garnish

Heat wok or dutch oven (something higher-walled than a skillet is ideal), add a round of vegetable oil, saute onions for a few minutes. Add garlic, and stir for 30 seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can do the fish sauce and black pepper last, so you can season according to how much water you used, and how sweet/salty the tomatoes/sauce are. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and let simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes (depending on how hungry you are). The tofu will absorb some of the juices, and the sauce should be very watery in consistency, but not in flavor. Adjust fish sauce and pepper to taste. Garnish with green onions if you want to be professional, and serve over hot Jasmine rice.

*I used fresh, Roma tomatoes. This is a good fall/winter dish, because it can hide the dullness of winter tomatoes. I think I've done this once with canned tomatoes, and if you do, you can cut out the sauce, and maybe add some ketchup instead? See ** below.

**Although there are some alternatives to using tomato sauce, I think it works the best. You don't quite need 8 oz, but that is the size of the can so sometimes I just dump the whole thing in, then add enough water to dilute so it doesn't taste like you're eating spaghetti with rice. In a pinch you can use a bit of ketchup or tomato paste.

And if that wasn't enough to entice you to visit, please admire the new pillow I got for our guest bed. It is calling your name!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

sparing a moment

by Lisa

Reading this blog inspired me to post more regularly.*

That's what I said the last time, and while there's no promise that I really mean it this time, I can always try. Was it Luther who said that all of life is repentance? Turning around, getting up again and going?

Well, here goes.

I've been really grateful that lately I've been exploring more Asian food. I think that cooking for the kids has made me focus more on comfort foods, things that go well with rice. I realize that I really don't know anything about cooking Chinese food, so when I do make something good (even just a stir-fried broccoli) I'm ridiculously proud of myself. So, today I bring you dim sum style spare ribs. So unphotogenic. But so delicious!

Super easy to make, too. If you don't have a steamer (bamboo or metal), you can always buy the steamer racks (less than $1) you put at the bottom of a wok or dutch oven or big pot. And if you are a cheap student who doesn't even have that, you can - under such dire circumstances - prop up your dish with some chopsticks, or a corelle bowl or ramekin turned upside down. There are ways to get around this. Don't let anything stop you from steaming these delicious ribs.

Cantonese Style Spare-ribs
from Steamy Kitchen

1.5 lbs** pork spare ribs, cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
2 T black bean sauce (or ground bean paste)
1 T Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry or vermouth) 
2-3 slices ginger, grated (microplane is the best!)

2 cloves garlic, minced (or grated, while you're at it)
1 t each, sesame and regular vegetable oil
1 t sugar
1 t salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 t cornstarch

Mix all ingredients besides the ribs together in the bottom of a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the ribs and coat with the marinade. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Or an hour if you want to squeeze in an episode of Psych, like I did.) Fill up your steamer with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Transfer the ribs to a 9" glass pie pan (or something similar) and place in steamer. Bring temperature down to medium or medium high, so that it's getting good steam but isn't overdone. Let steam for 20-30 minutes, until ribs are no longer pink. (Or an hour if you want to squeeze in another hour of Psych, like I did.) Remove from steamer and serve with a piping hot, fluffly Jasmine rice - the kind you want to lay your head down in like a pillow.

In closing randomness, something to make my mother-in-law proud:

baby's breath in a gravy boat!

* I told David I thought we should try to blog EVERY night, and post together. But I'm not sure we can follow-through with that, so we'll try blogging together - but in our separate places - and if we can commit, we'll go for it! I guess you guys can encourage us with your comments. :)

**Or 4+ lbs, like I had, and eyeball the math for multiplying all the rest of the ingredients proportionately. You know I always cook for 20.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

currying favor

by Lisa

I heartily encourage you to get yourself a head of cabbage and make this simple dish for dinner tonight. I don't quite remember how I found this recipe, but when I did, it was love at first sight.

Five-Minute Indian-style Cabbage
from herbavoracious
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter), or mustard oil, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • optional garnish: cilantro, lemon juice
  1. Heat a large skillet or wok over a medium-high flame. Add the oil, wait 10 seconds, and immediately add the mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as they start to pop, add the rest of the spices and any optional ingredients and stir-fry for 10 more seconds. Move quickly here so you infuse the flavor in the oil but don't burn them.
  3. Add the cabbage and salt, and stir-fry until crisp-tender or tender, your preference. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and/or lemon juice. (As much as I love this on other curries, I don't find it necessary for this dish.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

setting the record

by Lisa

As I write this post, the leftover shakshuka is still warm in the dutch oven. I think I'm setting the record for posting.

After David forced me to download all - yes, all 8 GB - of my photos off my camera last night, I've committed to post more immediately on the happenings in the Ro household.

Plus I told Felise I would give her the recipe.

After getting back from camping yesterday, I knew I was too tired to make anything elaborate, but I still wanted to have something special this morning for Felise. I then remembered that I had feta and parsley, which meant that I could easily make shakshuka, whose other ingredients are pretty much staples. Shakshuka pretty much defines Lisa-food: eggs, spicy, hot, saucy, cheese.

Well, David's home now so I'm off to throw in one last egg. Here's to posting more regularly!

Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 jalapeƱos, finely chopped (I leave in the seeds)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika (I used chile pepper instead, about 1/2-1 teaspoon)

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

Kosher salt, to taste

6 eggs

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
 (I use more)
Warm pitas, for serving (you can eat this with any bread, or rice/grain, or just on its own, like we did today)

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. (I add the onions first, and chop the chiles while those are cooking.) Add garlic, cumin, and paprika/chile, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 4 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

Note: I usually make 2 eggs per person. You can always re-heat the leftover sauce and add more eggs for your next meal, or when others join you at the table.

Monday, June 20, 2011

simply delicious

by Lisa

Our new neighbor and friend, Jenn, is a dancer. From her, I've learned that if you give a hungry dancer a cupcake, she will eat it. And maybe want another.

Or three more.

After tasting Simply Dessert's* Red Velvet Cake, we decided to give a go at our own. I compared recipes and landed on the NY Times'. They call for three ounces of red food coloring - which, at $2.99/oz., I decided to skimp on. I bought one ounce and added two ounces of water to make up the volume.

We made a three-layer cake (our digital scale came in handy in making it even), but if you have the capacity, I think four layers would be amazing.

In my opinion, reducing the food coloring made no difference, and so other than that, I thought the recipe was fantastic.

*I've decided that "Simply Desserts" is simply a misnomer for this shop. While they do offer a cookie or a muffin for those who wish, their cases are primarily filled with huge delicious cakes. Try the Banana Amaretto and the Chocolate-White Chocolate.

Red Velvet Cake
adapted from the NY Times

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3½ cups cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.
2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
5. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

a foodie's worse nightmare

by Lisa

In the only Korean drama I've watched in its entirety, My Name is Kim Sam Soon, the protagonist says that she can't bake sweet things with a broken heart. Likewise for me, it's been hard to enjoy cooking after all these transitions. Moving to a new city where we didn't know anyone has made rare the opportunities to cook for big groups of people whom we love.

It's a foodie's worse nightmare when you can't even eat food and enjoy it. That's how it was when we first moved to Seattle. (Of all places to not enjoy food!)

Praise God that I'm getting over that one.

And so now I have a plethora of pictures and recipes for you, in the posts to follow.