Sunday, September 6, 2009

Does bacon make everything better?

It's a freshly fried donut, with bourbon-caramel sauce, vanilla gelato, peanuts, whipped cream, and a cherry. Sprinkled with bacon.
This is from Zingerman's Roadhouse. And yes, bacon did make this better. However --I just tried a Manhattan made with bacon-infused whiskey a few days ago, which confirmed my fear that there are some things that are not improved by the addition of bacon. Sad.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

moules marinaire

Oh man I made these so long ago I can barely remember how I made them..and now I feel really, really lazy... Ok, well, first you have to soak the mussels in cold water for a bit to get the sand out. Then scrub them, if they're lookin dirty or whatever. Ok, then chop some garlic and shallots. Put a tablespoon or two of olive in a big pot. Saute the garlic and shallots for a minute or two, then dump in the mussels and a cup of white wine, then cover and turn down heat so the mussels steam. Cook them for about, oh I don't know...7 or 8 minutes? Until most of them open up. Then, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and put in a pretty bowl. Then, add to the juices in the pan: a few tablespoons of butter, and a tablespoon or two of dijon mustard, and bring this to a quick boil. Then pour it over the mussels. The end!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bahn Mi Bonanza!

I didn't really have a Bahn Mi "Bonanza", I just like alliteration.
These are amazing vietnamese sandwiches that bring together the beauty of french baguettes and mayonnaise (which is originally french, right?), with the tangy southeast asian flavors of fish sauce and pickled vegetables. And they are very easy to make. Unless, like me, you go to the Chinese grocery store to look for pickled daikon and carrots, bringing along two small children who spend the whole trip alternating between holding their noses and begging for Pocky. This was very distracting and I never found pickled daikon & carrots, so I had to buy daikon and carrots fresh and pickle them myself. Which wasn't really hard, just a pain in the ass. It would have been easier if I could've gotten the shredding attachment on the food processor to work, and didn't have to julienne two pounds of vegetables myself. I'm not complaining, it's just that I'm a really slow cutter. I need knife lessons.
Here are the ingredients to make the version of Bahn Mi that I made, but bear in mind that Bahn Mi can have all kinds of different things in them, so don't feel limited.
Pickled carrots and daikon
Red onions
Here is the pork recipe:
2 pounds of pork chops, or similar, cut into small slices
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 Tbs fish sauce
4 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
4Tbs finely chopped onion, or shallot
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp sesame oil
Mix everything except the pork in a ziploc bag. Then add the pork and let it marinate for at least an hour. Heat up a pan fairly hot and fry the pork but good.
I guess you could halve this recipe, but why would you?
Ok, here is the pickled daikon and carrot recipe, if you find yourself needing it:
1/2 pound carrots, shredded or julienned or similar
1/2 pound daikon, cut up like the carrots
3 cups warm water
3 Tbs rice vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs salt
Pack the daikon and carrots into a clean jar. Mix all the other ingredients together until dissolved. Then pour this mixture into the jar. Put this in the fridge and leave for a few days before you use it, ideally. (I had to use it after a few hours, so I had to sprinkle extra vinegar on the sandwich to make up for it)
This recipe, on the other hand, I already halved for you, because I pickled two pounds of vegetables, which turns out to be quite a lot, unless you are going to eat this all the time. But feel free to double it back if you wish.
I doubt that you need instructions on how to assemble a sandwich, but... here you go:
Cut a piece of baguette open, spread mayonnaise on it, add sriracha, layer pork, cilantro, cucumbers, pickled vegetables in whatever ratios you want. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spaghetti with Braciole (known in some circles as "Sunday Gravy")

First let me say that I realize my camera work needs help. I'm working on it. Anyway...
Here is my family's recipe for the long-simmering tomato sauce that you see people eating in every movie about Italian Americans. There's a reason they are all eating it...because it's so damn awesome. In fact, I will no longer watch one of my favorite movies of all time -Goodfellas- unless I have this spaghetti on hand, or on the stove at least, because otherwise, I'll get to the part when they are making sauce in prison, and I'll need some. I'll write out the whole recipe, but really, I can synopsize it like this: Put some kind of beef or pork product in a pan and brown it in olive oil, then add some kind of tomato product (sauce, paste, puree, juice, whatevs) and just let it all cook over low-ish heat for at least 4 hours. You can add garlic, basil, oregano, and sugar, but if you forget, which I have done on more than one occasion, it will still be amazing. Really, the only ways you can screw it up are if you a) burn it, or b) don't cook it long enough. You can use whatever meat you want: italian sausage, pork chops, country style ribs, braciole (which is rolled beef), meatballs, pepperoni, etc. etc. You can use all those things or just one, or whatever combo.
Okay, here is the step-by-step recipe, handed down from my paternal great-grandmother Speranza to my grandmother Bette, although I'm copying a recipe that is in my mother's words.
1 flank steak (or top or bottom round)
2 lbs ground beef
Italian bread crumbs
2 big cans tomato sauce
1-2 small cans tomato paste
one paste-can of water
garlic, minced, plus 2-3 cloves cut into big chunks
dried basil
dried oregano, optional
Pound flank steak on both sides. Sprinkle with minced garlic, basil, and oregano. Roll up and tie with white cotton string. Meanwhile, brown chunks of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil and remove. Add rolled flank steak and brown on all sides. Turn down heat and add sauce, paste, water and more seasonings to taste (about 1 Tbs of each).
You will learn that exact amounts don't matter too much, but here is the essential thing: cook this a looooong time. Joe's dad [this would be my grandfather] says it must be cooked at least 4 hours or the sauce will taste "fresh" (God forbid!). Just keep checking to makke sure it tis not cooking down too fast or sticking. You can always add a little more water. Sauce should be just simmering.
After flank steak has been simmering in the sauce for a couple of hours, make the meatballs: put meat in a bowl, add a couple of eggs, a half cup of bread crumbs, plus a tablespoon of milk. Just keep adding these ingredients until the meatball are kind of loose but they'll stick together. Make them any size you like but they'll take longer to cook if they are bigger - duh. Put them in a big roasting pan that you've oiled with a little olive oil. Bake them in 350 degree oven until they are pretty brown. Then take them out and put them in the sauce for the last hour and a half or so --not too much longer or they will really fall apart. After at least 4 hours, cook the pasta of your choice. When it is done, remove the flank steak (braciole) from the sauce, cut away the string and cut into slices. Put meat on a serving dish and ladle a little sauce over it. Drain pasta and put in bowl mixed with some of the sauce. Put extra sauce in a little pitcher at the table.
You can add or subtract ingredients from this recipe - it is impossible to ruin unless you burn it or make the sauce too watery. You can add chunks of pepperoni, which will make it a little spicy. Use Italian sausage instead of or in addition to the braciole. I have even made it vegetarian -- I just put more olive oil in when I browned the garlic and cooked it down for hours. You can also use dried red pepper flakes. You may want to double the amount of sauce if you're serving lots of people or if you want lots of leftovers. Leftovers the next day - meatball sandwiches, yum!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wenslydale with cranberries, why can't I quit you?

It was bad times when I suddenly couldn't find my cheese obsession anywhere. I ended up going to five stores before relenting and going to Whole Foods, which had it, thank god. It's just lucky that I was low on funds when I went or I would've seriously considered buying the $40 half-wheel of it, just to save the hassle of hunting it down again --at least for a while.
Here is a sandwich I made with the cheese, plus roast beef, dijon mustard, and my other current food obsession --sweet dill pickles. I put all these together between day-old whole-wheat zingerman's farm bread and fried it in butter...yeah

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


That is what Julia screamed at The Cupcake Station yesterday. Screamed. I had forgotten her preferred manner of eating cupcakes, which I'm embarassed to admit. Okay, at home, I just let her eat the frosting off the cupcake, and then I put more frosting on. The cupcake itself is just a vehicle for frosting. Which is not okay at The Cupcake Station, where the cupcakes are $2.25 each. I quieted her down by quickly promising her under my breath that we would never come to the cupcake store again if she screamed like that, and luckily, she did not call my bluff. Above is the Mocha Latte cupcake: "moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with rich espresso buttercream topped with coffee beans" mmmm

The girls both had Chocolate Petals --chocolate cake with (pink) buttercream Julia is doing her Sean Penn impression above. She was mad about the frosting situation and she did NOT want it captured on film

Cal enjoying her cupcake.
The Cupcake Station is on Liberty, by the way. I don't know how long a cupcake-only store will last in this economy, so you should probably check it out sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Lame-o Valentines Day!

Honestly, I have found Valentines Day to be completely underwhelming since I was about 10.'s a very exciting holiday for five- to ten-year-olds, because they get to have a party at school. Callie was really excited for about two weeks beforehand. So we made cupcakes to honor St. Valentine. I'm pretty sure that there is some kind of gory legend connected with St. Valentine himself, but I can't remember it. Anyone?
We made Devil's Food cupcakes, with Nutella frosting, and we filled them with raspberry jam, just to be extra fancy. And, since the girls like to rock out while baking, I put the word "love" into the search on my itunes library and played the following :

Love, Reign O’er Me –The Who
Cry For Love – Iggy Pop
Tainted Love –Soft Cell

Somebody To Love – Jefferson Airplane

Sunshine Of Your Love –Cream
Underwater Love –Faith No More

Love To Hate You –Erasure
May This Be Love –Jimi Hendrix

Whole Lotta Love –Led Zeppelin

Fell In Love With a Girl –White Stripes

Dub The Frequencies of Love –Gogol Bordello

Sea of Love – (two versions) Cat Power, Tom Waits

Could You Be Loved –Bob Marley

Devil's Food cupcakes:

Put paper cupcake liners in two cupcake/muffin pans for total of 24

Heat oven to 350

In one bowl, whisk together:

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

In another bowl, whisk together:

1 cup sugar

1 cup buttermilk (or one cup milk, into which you have squeezed half a lemon)

1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

In yet another bowl, beat until creamy:
1 stick of softened butter

Gradually add and beat on high speed until fluffy:
1 cup sugar

Beat in one at a time:
2 large eggs
On low speed add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 parts, beating until smooth.

Fill cupcake papers about halfway, and bake for about 18-22 min -- check with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, they're done

After these have cooled, fill them with raspberry jam

Just poke holes in them with a chopstick, then put jam in a plastic ziploc and squeeze jam into the cupcakes.

Then make the:

Nutella Frosting

I did not exactly measure while making this, so the most important thing is to add enough powdered sugar to make a consistency that will not slide off the cake, and yet will be easy to spread. First you take:

2 sticks of softened butter

Put them in a mixing bowl and add:

4-6 tablespoons of Nutella

Beat these together, then add:

6 oz of chocolate that has been melted, then cooled a little

Then add powdered sugar until you reach the right consistency. If you make the frosting too stiff, you can add milk to thin it back out.

Frost the cupcakes, and sprinkle with hearts.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You love it, you want it

Alright, admittedly I have not done much interesting cooking in the last 6 months or so. I was busy. And uninspired. But sometimes you get hit simultaneously with the right combination of emotional turmoil and free-time and this creates the perfect storm for cooking something really good. Kind of like the protaganist in "Like Water for Chocolate" who channels all her emotion into her cooking when she can't be with the man she loves. Except I'm hoping that in my case nobody bursts into flames. Anyway, initially I was going to make mole because it's a really long process, but I started too late collecting the ingredients and by the time I got home I was exhausted. So I made pork in adobo sauce instead, and apple and roasted poblano salad, and avocado sauce.

Here I am taking seeds out of a pepper with one hand while I take the picture with the other, which is why the picture looks so unnatural!

Here is the finished dinner, all beautifully plated. Ta da!

Oh yeah! I also made a Tres Leches cake. Ever had it? Well you should. When I was teaching in L.A., everytime it was someone's birthday or something, we'd have one of these cakes. They were readily available in all the grocery stores near the school. I always assumed it was hard to make, but it's really, really easy. Which just tells you this: even if you can't get some particular type of food where you live, you can always make it. What are you, lazy? Callie helped me make this cake, which was fine because she actually can help me now.

So there it is. It was all delicious, if I may say so.

Now --don't you wish you were here? Because if you were, I would make this for you.


Lomitos Adobados - Pork Tenderloin in Adobo Sauce

Adobo Sauce:

2 ancho chiles, seeded, deveined, and soaked in 1 cup cold water for 30 minutes.

1 large garlic clove

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

6 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup water

Drain the chiles, put them in the blender, then blend, baby, blend.


Rub with adobo sauce. Marinate in ziploc bag at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350.

Heat 4 Tbs oil in cast-iron skillet and sear the tenderloins over high heat for five min or

so. Then put the pan in the oven and roast for 15 min for medium. Did you know pork

does not have to be cooked to well-done anymore? Well now you do. Don't fear the


Apple-Poblano Salad

2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch strips (roast them by putting them under the broiler or over an open flame until blackened, then stick in paper bag for about 10 min. Then you can just rub the skin right off)

2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes

1/4 cup hulled pumkin seeds, toasted in a dry pan

1 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Sea salt

Mix it all together, and let the flavors blend for about 30 minutes or so.

Avocado Sauce

1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

half a clove of garlic

1 cup of milk

1 cup of water

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves

Blend away.

Let the pork rest for 10 min, slice it, then plate all this up prettily.

Tres Leches Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

3 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 13-oz can evaporated milk

3 cups heavy cream

Spray bottom and sides of a 9-by-3 inch springform pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Combine eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed until doubled in volume, about 5 min. Reduce speed to low; add the water and 1 tsp of vanilla. Mix well. On very low speed or by hand with a long spatula, gently fold dry ingredients into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 min, or until cake is firm on top and has pullad away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and place pan on rack to cool for 10-15 min. Turn cake out on a serving platter, put a plate over the cake, and turn it right side up. Let it cool.

While cake is colling, whisk together the sweetened condensed mile, evaporated milk, 1 cup of heavy and cream, and 2 teaspoons vanilla; set this aside. Using serrated knife, slice top of cake off. Poke the top of the cake all over with a toothpick. Pour the milk mixture over the cake in several batches so that it can completely soak. Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, whisk the remaining heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream on top of cake. Garnish with fruit, if you must.

I got all the recipes straight from a cookbook, and I really didn't change any of them because everything in this cookbook is so fabulous, you just don't want to mess with it, you know? The cookbook is from this restaurant in Austin, TX, called Fonda San Miguel, which is the best Mexican restaurant I've been to, I think. It's not tex-mex really, even though it's in Texas. It strives to be more traditional Mexican. And yes, I've been to some really good little dives that had great Mexican food, and were probably more authentic, but I don't know. It's really frickin good, what else can I say.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mitchell's Fish Market

I recently went to Mitchell's Fish Market in Plymouth with my dear friend who was craving their mussels in white wine sauce. Here are some pictures of the mighty tasty dinner we had there: Above: BBQ bacon-wrapped shrimp and cheddar grits, beer battered shrimp, and garlic broiled shrimp.
Above: "Shang Hai" scallops, blackened tilapia, jambalaya, cedar-planked salmon

Above: The dish that started it all; mussels in white wine, butter, garlic, tomatoes, and parsley.
That was a hell of a lot of seafood my friend! And really good. But the best part of the evening was getting to see Tony Little, of the "Gazelle", right there in the restaurant! My life is complete! He was even wearing his baseball cap with long curly hair pulled through the back. If you don't know who I'm talking about, then clearly you need to watch more infomercials.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Meijers is a shining example of cultural sensitivity

Right in front of the Mexican food at Meijers. I took this picture just minutes before a checkout girl started loudly ranting about how she hates "working at this place because it gets worse everyday!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural cupcakes? Yes We Did!

It's hard to get a good likeness in frosting

Arigato Christi!

These are but a few pictures of a fabulous meal made by my dear friend Christi. I will say no more and instead encourage you to check out her blog: