Spring. Pasta.

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I know. I know! FOOD! How freaking crazy is that? On a FOOD blog?

Alright. I’ll stop being dramatic. I just realized that, if I didn’t post something soon, May would go by with not one single post. And I know that, even though it’s only May 15th, because we’re about to get up out of this country for nearly 2 weeks, and I definitely won’t be posting then (since, you know, I barely post now..).

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Also, Spring won’t be around forever, will it? Although I hear it still feels like Winter in the Midwest, it does actually feel very springlike here in San Francisco, and even down in Palo Alto where I work it isn’t blistering hot yet. That said, I figure I should share this spring-like recipe while I still can, because it’s definitely something you should consider making.

I made this pasta recipe a month or so ago, and it is chock-full of spring veggies – broccoli, asparagus, even little cherry tomatoes. You could practically toss in whatever you like – possibly green beans, some roughly chopped kale or chard, whatever. The sauce that results from the pasta liquid, tomato juice, and melted cheese is really light, so light that you have to take care not to make any more pasta than the recipe dictates, or else it will be really dry. If you want a richer pasta, you could probably add a little white wine, or a tablespoon of butter to the pot at the same time you add the pasta water. For me though, I wanted to really focus on the veggies, and that’s the intention here: simplicity, good produce at its Springtime best.

I hope everyone has/has had a lovely Spring. I also hope you’ve enjoyed the rando pics I’ve posted. It’s my little way of barely hanging on to this blog and not totally saying goodbye. It’s nice to still have things to share, and despite having limited time, the picture-sharing is a great way to keep up. Hopefully, more recipes will come, but we’ll see how things go. I can’t remember the last time I took a photo while cooking – probably this one!

So, until next time, stay warm/cool/whatever ;).

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Spring Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Food&Wine, April 2013; serves 6

time commitment: ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients

2 bunches of broccolini or broccoli (about 1 1/4 pounds), thick stems halved lengthwise

1 garlic clove, sliced

5 T evoo, divided

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds red cherry tomatoes

6 scallions, white and tender green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1 pound tagliatelle

2 T unsalted butter

Large pinch of crushed red pepper

1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley

About 1/2 c shaved ricotta salata cheese, for garnish

instructions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the broccolini and garlic with 3 T of the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper; spread on a rimmed baking sheet. In another bowl, toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 T of olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes, until the broccolini is tender and charred in spots and the tomatoes are very juicy but not broken down.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the scallions until just softened, 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallions to a bowl. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot. Add the roasted broccolini, scallions, asparagus, butter, crushed red pepper and half of the parsley. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Gently fold in the roasted tomatoes and any juices and season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with the shaved cheese and the remaining parsley and serve right away.

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Special, For Sure

So, I have a confession. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not something I’d want people to remember me by. But it’s something that you should know about me, regardless.

I sort of have a sort-of addiction to reality TV. But I’ve come a long way, really I have.

I used to watch The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, Real World,  The Amazing Race, Chopped, The Next Food Network Star, and pretty much anything on MTV and Food Network. Oh yeah, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Thanks for reminding me of that one, Caroline!

Now, I only watch Survivor and Top Chef. Well, and The Next Iron Chef. Duh. Yes, just three! Somehow, my ultra-long list of guilty pleasures was whittled down to just three lil’ ol’ shows. I consider myself fortunate, because I never got into the Real Housewives of Blank or the Extreme Makeovers or the Biggest Losers or the Kardashians or whoever the famous rich people shows are about these days. Heck, I only watched 1 little season of American Idol. And I could care less about The Voice because I don’t like any of the hosts. So….. maybe I’m not that addicted, after all?

Frankly, I could cut out Survivor, but Chris would just die. We’ve watched it for. so. long. that we just can’t stop now!, he says. And truthfully, there is always someone to laugh at, although this season I’m almost embarrassed to be a girl since these chicks can’t seem to get it together. But whatever.

But I can’t not watch Top Chef. Yes, sometimes it’s a train wreck. Yes, sometimes I wonder how certain people even make it to being on the show. And yes, I’d just love to see what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling on those judges because I swear they are three sheets to the wind every night. But I do look forward to it every week, and sadly the last season just wrapped up, so I’m Top Chef-less for a bit.

Ed Lee was one of my favorites this season. I think he made it to the final 5 before he got the boot, although I’d expected him to be in the top 3. I do think the final 2 were the ones who deserved to be there, but even so, Ed was always a favorite of mine and for good reason – he effortlessly combined Asian and Southern comfort food – my favorite cuisines. What’s not to love?

Anyway, Ed already gets plenty of media attention, because he’s awesome, so I’m sure that not winning Top Chef won’t hold him back in the slightest. A while back, he was featured in Food & Wine, and he shared a recipe for these corn griddle cakes that I could not stop thinking about. And since we aren’t usually up and cooking breakfast on the weekends, I didn’t want to wait until we had company to try them, so instead we just had them for dinner one night, and I froze the rest so I could have them on a special morning when we’re out of cereal and oatmeal.

The griddle cakes are so freakin’ tasty that I could probably eat them straight outta the freezer (well, with a little zapping…), but the orange-honey butter adds a perfect element of sweetness, reminding you that these aren’t just everyday breakfast cakes. They’re special, for sure.

Other cornmeal-containing lovelies:

Zucchini Cornbread (aka why my butt’s so big. go ahead, read the story..)
Hushpuppies (these didn’t help, either)
Cornmeal-Blueberry Cookies
Rhubarb-Cornmeal Tarts
Andouille & Sweet Potato Pie

Corn Griddle Cakes with Sausage and Orange-Honey Butter
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; serves 8

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
orange-honey butter
6 T unsalted butter
1/2 c honey
1 1/2 T finely grated orange zest
salt and pepper

corn cakes
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cooking spray, or olive/grapeseed oil
3/4 c(about 7 ounces) breakfast sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 c fresh (or frozen, thawed) corn kernels
1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly cracked black peppercorns
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/4 c buttermilk
2 large eggs
6 scallions, chopped

instructions
orange-honey butter
Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in honey and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

corn cakes
Cook sausage in a 10-12″ cast-iron skillet or other large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a small bowl. Add corn to same skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned, 5–6 minutes. Transfer corn to bowl with sausage and let cool.

Whisk cornmeal and next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl; add dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in sausage, corn, and scallions.

Heat 1 T butter (or oil or spray) in skillet; working in batches and adding butter as needed between batches, add batter to pan by tablespoonfuls. Cook until cakes are crisp and golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Turn cakes over and cook until browned, 1–2 minutes longer. Transfer cakes to paper towels to drain. Serve warm drizzled with orange-honey butter.

Fair and Square

One of our favorite types of food these days is ramen. No, not the 10/$1.00 packs that come in all sorts of flavors, like chicken, oriental, and beef, but the actual kind that you are given in a restaurant, in a gigantic bowl filled to the brim with steaming hot broth, ramen noodles, pork (or fried chicken. fried chicken!), and all sorts of other ingredients that have me salivating right this second.

We’ve tried a handful of spots in the city over the past few months, and every time I’m feeling the need for some warm comfort food my mind goes straight to ramen. I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, while waiting for said ramen to make its appearance at the table, it’s never a bad idea to have an appetizer or three. Many of these ramen joints make killer meat skewers, but often times all I want is a freakin’ potsticker. Something about a little sheet of dough enveloping a bite of meat and veggies, and then steamed and served alongside some sort of amazing dipping sauce makes me so amazingly happy. So happy that I could likely eat a couple orders of them and call it a night, if it weren’t for the ramen making its way to the table.

But when you’re home, that’s another story. I’ve eaten potstickers only quite a few times.

Potstickers are those little treats that look so damn hard to make, but are in all reality, probably one of the easiest dishes to throw together, minus the time. You toss the filling into a food processor, which means your initial chopping skills really don’t matter all that much, as long as things are similarly butchered to smithereens. You put the filling onto pre-made wrappers. You fold them (which is what people think is so dang hard. It isn’t.), and then you steam them. The sauce is nothing but a handful of ingredients whisked together (and for that, there are thousands of choices, but I’m a fan of a spicy peanut sauce, I am). Then you’re ready to chow down.

Sure, they look intricate. And sure, it might take some precision and a little patience, but there isn’t much that can go wrong, even if the wonton shapes aren’t winning beauty pageants. Either way, what results are little pockets of delightful goodness that you, I promise, won’t be able to resist.

You can even take them to a potluck if you want. And when that potluck gets canceled without your knowledge, you can smile a little on the inside, because they just turned into lunch, which means you can eat like, 10 of them, instead of 2. That’s what I call winning – fair and square.

Shrimp & Ginger Potstickers w/ Spicy Peanut Sauce
makes 24 potstickers – 4 servings as a meal, 12 as an appetizer

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
potstickers
3/4 c Napa cabbage, shredded
1/3 c scallions, chopped (+ more for garnish, optional)
1/4 c carrots, julienned
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked
sriracha, optional but totally not optional
24 small wonton wrappers
2 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 T canola oil, divided
1 c water, divided

sauce
1/4 c water
1/4 c reduced fat peanut butter
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 T chile paste w/ garlic (sambal oelek)
1/2 t sugar

instructions
combine 1st 10 ingredients (sriracha to your liking) into food processor and pulse ~4 times, or until coarsely chopped and mixed together.

working with 1 wrapper at a time, spoon 1 1/2 t of filling into the center. wet the edges of the wonton with a small brush and bring opposite corners together, pinching to seal. place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch/arrowroot powder.

heat 1 1/2 t canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 potstickers to pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. slowly add 1/2 c water, cover and cook for 4 minutes. uncover and cook 3 more minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Repeat again with remaining oil, potstickers, and water.

prepare sauce by combining all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisking until mixed.

serve potstickers with peanut sauce, garnishing with green onions, if desired.

Peppery Goodness

I’m a big fan of all things spicy. Luckily, Chris is too. Taken together, this means I don’t have to “wuss down” any of the food I’m making so long as it’s just for the two of us. And when ordering takeout, I know that I can tell the guy on the other end of the line to “make it as spicy as you can” when placing an order for chana masala or Kung Pao chicken, and I won’t hear any shrieks from anyone on my end.

Come to think of it, this should have been one of those “checklist” items I talked about the other day.

There was a bar near our alma mater, NC State (Go Wolfpack!), that we frequented quite a bit back in the day – Sammy’s. Sammy, the owner (duh), had a signature wing sauce called “Sammy Sauce”. While Sammy clearly wasn’t the most creative person around, that sauce he made was dynamite, in more ways than one. It was loaded with pepper, so much so that you saw more black than you did sauce and chicken wing.

Man, it was good, and hot too. But you had to get there before the crowd rushed in, because only Sammy made the sauce, and when the bucket was empty, that was that until another batch was made the following day. Apparently Sammy didn’t work at night.

I thought about Sammy and his sauce (and that just sounds really gross because, yes, I am immature) the second I saw this recipe in the cookbook that I still haven’t returned to my friend. The title stood out to me, and the picture confirmed my unnaturally high hope that this recipe was exactly what it purported to be: all about the pepper.

And since I love any excuse to eat crispy tofu, I figured this recipe would be pretty close to perfect. Toss in an episode of last season’s Castle, and you have yourself a trifecta.

For those of you who aren’t into tofu, don’t worry – I am certain a pound of cubed chicken breast would work perfectly here. It won’t have that satisfyingly spongy on the inside, crispy on the outside texture that crispy tofu has, but maybe that’s just my cup o’ tea, and not yours.

Either way, if you are into hot and spicy, this could be your go-to guy, no matter what protein you prefer. After all, it’s just the medium for the peppery goodness, anyway.

Black Pepper Tofu
Adapted from Plenty; serves 4

time commitment: 45 minutes

Two notes here:

1) sweet soy sauce: only the Asian grocers seem to carry this stuff, or you can buy it online. I forgot to pick it up and made my own, but if you can find it, definitely buy the real thing. To at least mimic the sweet/salty effect, bring 1/4 c brown sugar and 1/4 c regular soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan, and reduce to 1/4 c.

2) grinding the peppercorns: I started with a mortar and pestle, but couldn’t get them to the size I wanted without breaking a sweat. so I’d suggest a spice grinder so the pieces aren’t too big. You want it coarse, but edible.

printable version

ingredients
2 packages extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1″x2″ chunks
canola oil, for frying
cornflour, for dusting tofu
4 T butter
12 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T fresh ginger, minced
1 c basmati rice, for serving
6 T soy sauce
4 T sweet soy sauce
2 T sugar
5 T coarsely crushed black peppercorns
16 scallions, cut into 3″ segments

instructions
pour about 1″ of oil into a wok or large skillet and warm up over med-hi heat. Meanwhile, toss the tofu in batches into the cornflour and shake off the excess. again, in batches, add tofu to wok and fry, turning over, until golden all over. once ready, transfer to paper towel-lined plate and fry the remainder of the tofu.

remove oil from pan, and wipe any crumbs away as well. melt butter in wok. add shallots, chile, garlic and ginger. saute over low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are totally soft. (start cooking rice at this point, according to package directions.) then add soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.

add tofu back to the wok to warm it in the sauce for about a minute. lastly, stir in scallions. serve over rice.

We Go Together

Some things are meant to go together. It’s easy like that.

It’s like a game when someone says one word, and then you say the first word that comes to mind upon hearing that word – you know, the natural or most logical answer. Like if I said “dog” you’d perhaps say “bark” or “cat”. Or if I said “cotton”, you might say “candy” or “ball”. You get the jist, no?

Movies?

Popcorn. You can’t go to a movie without seeing a ton of folk noshing on butter-laden bags of it, right? It just makes sense. For us though, movies = hot tamales snuck in from Walgreens. Popcorn is a splurge

Peanut butter?

Jelly or bananas. I used to think only jelly went with peanut butter, but I eventually saw the light, and I’d take a PB&B sandwich any day. And PB&J is a lovely standby, so long as there’s no seeds in my J. Credit would also be given to the word cookie, because peanut butter cookies are dynamite.

Red wine?

Any red meat. This is a total no-brainer. Please don’t drink Chardonnay with your steak. Thank you. I’ll also accept any red varietal for credit here, if you must know.

Milk?

Cookies. I mean, duh. Except if you’re lactose-intolerant, then I’d suggest almond milk instead. Extra-tasty, indeed.

Scallions?

Cilantro. And sesame seeds, and bread. Oh, and yeast. Holy moly. If there was ever something you should make in double quantity, it’s this bread. You’d be sorely regretful otherwise – I ain’t playin’.

But for serious – these ingredients are like a mixture of everything lovely. A crunch here, a chew there, you’d have a hard time eating just one roll, which is why you’d be smart to double every last one of these ingredients. Why, you could even freeze the rolls before baking, and bake off one by one alongside dinner, if you prefer. Extra credit goes to those who do so, in my book.

Cilantro-Scallion Bread
From Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 12 rolls

time commitment: ~2 hours (half active, half letting dough rise and rolls bake)

printable version

ingredients
2 t active dry yeast
2 t Kosher salt, divided
2 t sugar, divided
1 3/4 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
4 T unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 1/4 c coarsely chopped scallions
1/2 c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c sesame seeds
1 T black sesame seeds
3 T olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing

instructions
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour 1/2 c warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar over; let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes. (if yeast doesn’t bubble, it might be dead, so start over with new yeast.)

Place flour, butter, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat in egg, yolk, and yeast mixture, scraping down sides. (you can also do this without a stand mixer – just combine ingredients together with an electric mixer or spoon.)

Knead on medium speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes (or do this by hand until soft and springy). Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (If you’re preparing this for baking the following day, you can put it in the fridge at this point; the dough will still rise very slowly, and you’ll want to remove the dough and let it get to room temperature before moving to the next step.)

Meanwhile, coursely chop scallions and cilantro. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in all sesame seeds and 3 T oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into a 18×9″ rectangle. Spoon scallion mixture evenly onto center and spread mixture to corners of dough. Working from one short edge, roll dough rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 12 dough swirls (~3/4″ each), trimming off the two ends. Transfer dough swirls to prepared baking sheet; brush with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Sesame Street

If I remembered being a toddler, I’d probably recall a few instances of frustration when things didn’t go right – like when I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what letter came after Q in the alphabet, and damn that song because it didn’t always help, either. I’d remember not being able to fit the plastic red square into the oddly shaped “toy”.

I’d remember wanting Bugsy, our albino Siamese kitten, to love me so badly that I’d just pick him up and squeeze him to pieces, dragging him across that shaggy yellow carpet like a rag doll, until one day he scratched the side of my face off. Okay, that’s a little of an exaggeration, but nonetheless Bugsy ‘disappeared’ shortly after that incident and I still feel a little guilty about that.

Being a toddler isn’t much different than being an adult, in a lot of ways. We screw a lot of shit up and smile afterwards, hoping our cuteness makes it go away (that worked better then than it does now). We throw tantrums here and there when things don’t go our way, and sometimes we look back on those incidents and laugh, but sometimes we just shake our heads in disbelief. We get excited about the little things, and sometimes the big picture escapes us.

Occasionally, great ideas aren’t always as well-executed in practice as they were in theory. But often, trying again (and sometimes again and again and again) leads to success.

But being a toddler was so much easier than being an adult, wasn’t it? If only we all had someone bigger than us, wiser than us, more adult than us, to make all those big choices in the big people world. Like what retirement fund to choose, or whether to bring an umbrella to work today, or what to tell the crying patient in your office, or how to get the damn trash people to just take our freaking box that’s been sitting outside all weekend.

Or how to cook soba noodles. Yeah, seriously. How to boil water, open a package, dump the dried buckwheat sticks into said boiling water, wait 5 minutes, and drain the now-soft noodles, and rinse them in cool water afterwards. You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard, wouldja?

But a couple of weeks ago, it was. I missed a c-rucial step.  You see, the buckwheat noodles were divided into three groups, each tied together by a thin strip of paper the same color as the noodles (translation – I didn’t see them). The water boiled, the package was opened, and the sticks were dumped into the water, but the paper ties caused a minor problem: the noodles didn’t separate, causing three large chunks of glop, and realizing this error right after dumping the noodles into the water was just 1 second too late, and past the point of no return. Some penne in the pantry saved the day, but all the while I knew this dish needed to be right, and it wasn’t.

So I put on my big girl pants, I procured another package of noodles and tofu along with more sesame seeds, I swallowed my pride, and I tried again. And man, am I glad I did. Admitting defeat and trying again is so grown up, don’t ya think?

Black Sesame Otsu
adapted, barely, from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson; serves 4

okay, I have a new cookbook addiction, which doesn’t happen often. and to you carnivores out there, I am sorry to report that I am again tossing another tofu recipe onto this site. I promise a meat-heavy dish is in your future. but for now, i am really happy about soba noodles, black sesame seeds, and tofu. I probably could have eaten the paste all by itself, actually.

printable version

time commitment: 30 minutes

ingredients
1 t pine nuts
1 t sunflower seeds
1/2 c black sesame seeds
1 1/2 T natural cane sugar
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 t mirin
1 t toasted sesame oil
2 T brown rice vinegar
1/8 t cayenne pepper
Fine-grain sea salt
1 package organic soba noodles
1 package extra-firm tofu
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

instructions
Cut the tofu into thin, bite-sized pieces. Put on a towel-lined plate and let sit out to release some of the moisture.

Toast the pine nuts and sunflower seeds in a large skillet over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan regularly. Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast for a minute or so. Remove from the heat as soon as you smell a hint of toasted sesame. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush the mixture; the texture should be like black sand. Stir in the sugar, shoyu, mirin, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba, and cook according to the package instructions until tender. Drain, reserving some of the noodle cooking water, and rinse under cold running water.

While the noodles are cooking, season the tofu with a pinch of salt, toss with a small amount of oil, and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, tossing every couple minutes, until the pieces are browned on all sides.

Reserve a heaping tablespoon of the sesame paste, then thin the rest with 1/3 cup of the hot noodle water. In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, half of the green onions, and the black sesame paste. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve topped with a tiny dollop of the reserved sesame paste and the remaining green onions.

Crunch & Munch

There are certain things in life that I’m willing to admit I’m pretty particular about. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a long list, but nonetheless a list it is.

I like for my seat in the car to tilt back a decent amount. Call it thuggish, call it bad posture, whatevs – I have tried countless times to sit up straight like the little Asian ladies in their SUVs that I pass on the freeway, but for the life of me I just can’t do it. I won’t tell you what Chris says about that way I sit in the car, but let’s just say that he likes to sit up fairly straight. Surprised?

I like to wash my hair every other day. Not every day, not every three days, but every other day. Things get planned around this – for serious.

The kitchen has to be clean before I start cooking. Yes, I’ll be dirtying it up in no time, but I can’t seem to start off on the right foot unless the sink is empty and all dishes are put away in their place, including the dishwasher getting unloaded. I think this one’s a wee bit on the compulsive side, but I’m ok with it.

We definitely do not make the bed every morning. I rebelled here because it didn’t matter how late I awoke each morning or how close the bus was to getting to my house; that bed was made before I left the house or mom was having a hissy-fit. But! The sheets and comforter have to be straightened. The pillows aren’t perfect and the sheets aren’t even on each side (there is always less on my side because someone steals them every single night), but I hate getting into a bed that has wrinkly sheets. This one sounds a little weird, too….

I eat apples from top to bottom, going all the way around each time. I thought that was normal? None of that haphazard biting; my apple is clean and organized. Boo-yah!

Okay. I don’t want you to think I’m nutso; of course, maybe you did before you even started reading this, in which case I assuredly have only further enhanced that opinion. So here’s an easy one –

I like two types of food to always be crunchy, always. Soggy pieces need not apply and will render themselves useless. These are vegetables (broccoli specifically) and tofu. I can’t be alone here, can I? I realized this fact about veggies once I realized that I actually like veggies, just not the soft, mushy ones that seemed to dominate my childhood meals, most of which came from cans or long stints in boiling water.

As for the tofu, I blame Satay, the restaurant that made their tofu the only way I’ve ever really cared for it – moist, but crunchy, spongy in a way. I also blame Satay for my difficulty in finding a perfect pad thai, but that’s a story that’s already been told. Nonetheless, this is one of the reasons you see limited dishes with tofu here. But last week I made something that defied all odds: I made a dish that included BOTH crunchy broccoli(ni) AND crunchy tofu. It made me want to be a vegetarian.

Well, I take that back. It made me want to be a vegetarian for the whole five minutes it took me to clean my plate. But those five minutes were awesome.

Fried Tofu w/ Spicy Ginger-Sesame Sauce & Broccolini
tofu adapted from Food & Wine, December 2010; serves 2

printable version

time commitment: 30 minutes

ingredients
2 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T crushed red pepper, divided
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
1/2 T toasted sesame oil
2 t finely grated fresh ginger
1 t toasted sesame seeds
One 14-ounce container firm tofu
Canola oil, for frying, plus 1 T for broccolini
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccolini
1/2 c uncooked jasmine rice

instructions
In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the sugar, 2 t red pepper, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and sesame seeds.

Slice the tofu into 1-2″ strips. Dry the tofu with paper towels, pressing until no moisture remains.

Cook rice according to package directions and keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the tofu and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Spoon the sauce over the fried tofu and sprinkle with the scallion. Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in a smaller skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccolini and remaining teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Saute for ~3-4 minutes.

Serve tofu and sauce with broccolini and steamed rice.