A Nice Change of Pace

This past weekend was completely unlike the one that preceded it. For a ton of reasons. But let’s first state the obvious, most polarizing difference: this past weekend, Chris was on his way to China for a week (yes, without me – again!), and the weekend before it, we were both in the country.

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s move on.

The other big difference is that two weekends ago, Chris and I took our first overnight backpacking trip into the Ventana Wilderness near Big Sur, going “balls to the wall” and hiking a round-trip 23 miles of bonkers up-and-down trail, where we saw mountains, redwoods, waterfalls, pretty greenery, the ocean, and at the final point for the night, a campsite right near natural hot springs. Which means we also saw hippie naked people, our own stinking dirty clothes, and freeze-dried food that didn’t taste half-bad.

It was pretty amazing, to say the least. Amazing and really, really hard. I’m pretty proud of us for roughin’ it out there, and can’t wait to do it again. (Here’s the pics, if you’re interested. There aren’t many since we were more focused on things like not toppling over from the weight of our packs!)

This weekend, I was left to my own devices, and I definitely didn’t go backpacking. Instead, I painted my toenails and fingernails (purple!), I got a massage, I went for a run and a couple of small bikes rides, and I survived my first hot yoga class. Just barely, though.

I also managed to sit out in the sunshine and soak in some Vitamin D. Ironically enough, I watched the “new” Twilight movie and read plenty of ‘Salem’s Lot, too. I did not sleep in a coffin, in case you were wondering, but I did wake up to my second memorable earthquake since living in San Francisco, which is noteworthy.

It wasn’t the same as my usual weekends around here lately – hiking and such – but it was certainly a nice change of pace. And it kept me from sitting in a quiet house with two lazy cats staring a me.

And while I could have easily procured a few microwave dinners to get me through the week food-wise, I had some produce leftovers from last week, and I decided that I couldn’t go one more day without making one of my very favorite dishes, bibimbap. I can’t put my finger on it, but the combination of flavors in bibimbap something that I seem to crave every now and then, and the taste isn’t comparable to anything else I know of. It’s the mixture of veggies with soy sauce and sesame oil, the Korean chili paste, the textures of all the different, individual cooking of ingredients, and the runny, fried egg on top that I absolutely can’t resist. I made enough for 2 servings this time (the recipe below is still scaled to 4, but it does half easily) and I ate leftovers so quickly that I almost poked myself in the face with my fork.

I took a picture with my phone and texted it to Chris, thinking he’d be totally envious and ready to come home right away. But then I remembered he was in, well, China. There’s good food in China.

And then I licked the rest of the chili paste right outta the bowl. I mean shoot, no one’s watching, anyway. But would I care if they were? Prolly not…

Bibimbap, previously: Beef & Asparagus Bibimbap
Korean, previously: Korean tofu tacos

Vegetarian (or not) Bibimbap
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2012; serves 4 

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
1 c uncooked short-grain brown rice
8 oz extra-firm tofu, drained (or sirloin, chicken, or pork)
1/3 c water
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 t sugar, divided
2 t garlic, minced & divided
1 t fresh ginger, minced & divided
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1 c carrots, julienned
2 T lower-sodium soy sauce
3 T dark sesame oil, divided
1 c fresh bean sprouts
5 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
9 oz fresh baby spinach (usually a large bag)
4 large eggs
4 T gochujang*
1/4 t kosher salt

*gochujang is Korean chili paste. You can usually find it at Whole Foods (the Annie Chun brand) or other brands in Asian markets

instructions
Cook rice. Bring 2 c water and rice to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until water is absorbed. This can be done days in advance to cut down on cooking time.

Meanwhile, cut tofu into 3/4-inch-thick cubes. Place tofu in a single layer in between a kitchen towel. Let stand 30 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

Combine 1/3 c water, vinegar, 1 t sugar, 1/2 t garlic, 1/2 t ginger, and crushed red pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add carrot, and remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine remaining 1 t sugar, 1/2 t garlic, remaining 1/2 t ginger, soy sauce, and 1 T oil, stirring with a whisk. Remove tofu from paper towels. Place tofu in a medium bowl. Add 1 T soy sauce mixture to tofu; toss gently. Let stand 15 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Add 1/2 T sesame oil; swirl to coat. Add rice to pan in a single layer; cook 1 minute (do not stir). Remove from heat.

Turn on oven just enough to warm and then turn off. Keep the following components warm by putting them on a baking sheet and keeping them in the oven until all pieces are sautéed. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 t oil; swirl to coat. Add 1 1/2 t soy sauce mixture and bean sprouts to pan; sauté 1 minute. Remove sprouts from pan; keep warm. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 t soy sauce mixture; sauté 1 minute. Remove mushrooms from pan; keep warm. Add 1/2 T oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tofu to pan; sauté 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove tofu from pan; keep warm. Add 1 t oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add remaining 1 t garlic and remaining 1 T soy sauce mixture; sauté 30 seconds. Add spinach to pan; sauté 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Remove spinach from pan; keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 t oil to pan, more if desired. Crack eggs into pan; cook 4 minutes or until whites are set. Remove from heat.

Place 1/2 c rice in each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving evenly with carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, tofu, and spinach. Top each serving with 1 egg and 1 T chili paste. Sprinkle evenly with salt.

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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.

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.

Pholicious

Okay. Remember how I’ve always said that I rarely make things more than once? I got bored a little bit ago (c’mon, people, I’m in Cupertino, California for the time being. It passes the time.) and I updated the recipe section (there are sections within sections now – watch out!). In doing so, I also made a list of the dishes I’ve actually made more than once on this site.

As it turns out, there are less than ten out of probably 200+ recipes on this blog that have been given this particular distinction. I was surprised there were that many, but nonetheless, here they are –

Paella. It requires getting your hands on Spanish chorizo, but when you do it is such a satisfying dish. I heart saffron.

Pad Thai. This one doesn’t require any explaining. It’s just a damn good recipe, and you should make it, too. Matter of fact, once I get settled, I’m going to make it again.

Deviled eggs. Okay, this one doesn’t really count. It’s a Thanksgiving dish that we just can’t live without. Plus, Luke eats like 5 of them so I think he’d miss it.

Puppy chow. The easiest party dish ever, so again, a no-brainer. 5 ingredients – 5!

Zucchini fries with romesco sauce. Seriously, what’s not to love? Although, making something twice isn’t that much to write home about, but I’d give these a third go if the timing was right…

Granola bars. Man, I want to make these NOW! I’m going to miss not being able to roll outta bed at 9 and eat cereal every morning (okay, 9 on a good day. there were a couple of 11 am wake-ups too, just a couple).

Vanilla-chai granola. Again – this would be really good in some Greek yogurt right. this. minute.

Baked pasta with squash and sweet potatoes. Creamy, vegetable-y goodness, all in one casserole dish.

B’stilla. Yes, Chris, I know I didn’t make this for you for your birthday this year. Clearly, we had other stuff going on. All in good time, love.

Nine. Nine! But there are at least 50 other dishes that got me drooling all over my Wallaby pineapple yogurt the other day. One day, I’ll revisit some of them. One day. But for now, I already have dish #10. I found a recipe for a quick version of pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) in Food & Wine last month, and since I’ve done nothing but think of pho since living in California (it’s awesome – noodle shops every mile or so, for real), I knew this dish could be a problem.

And it is. But such a good problem, though. I’ve already made it twice, and have so many leftover bunches of basil, bean sprouts, and scallions in the fridge that I decided it’s going back on the list this week. And sure, it’s not quite as delicious as the more time-consuming, traditional versions (including whatever they do at the actual restaurant here called Pholicious), but it’ll do for a quick weeknight meal.

Okay, okay. It’ll also do for lunch, a midnight snack, or a weekend meal with a movie and a bottle of wine. Just call it a multi-purpose dish, and make it.

Quick Vietnamese Pho
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2011; serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
5 c chicken stock or low-sodium broth
4 c water
2 T agave syrup
2 T finely grated fresh ginger
3 T low-sodium soy sauce*
1 8oz package thin brown (or white) rice noodles
3 T fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb trimmed beef tenderloin, very thinly sliced across the grain
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 c chopped basil
1/4 c chopped scallions
1 c mung bean sprouts
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
Sriracha, for serving

*gluten-free available

instructions
in a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock with the water, agave syrup, grated ginger and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

using tongs, transfer the noodles to bowls. Add the beef to the noodles and ladle the hot broth on top. Drizzle with the sesame oil and top with the basil, scallions and bean sprouts. Serve with lime wedges and chile sauce.

Asian Things

Are you into Asian things? Okay, I’ll be more be more specific, because otherwise my friend, Todd, may pop up here with a comment about about how he’s always loved Asian girls, and that’s awkward. I’m moreso speaking about Asian cuisine, and it’s one of my very favorites.

Although when I really think about it, I can’t honestly come up with an ethnic cuisine that I don’t like. But I haven’t yet tried Ethiopian cuisine, or really, any other food that might be considered African. I should – any recommendations? I’m willing to bet I’d like that too, though. Man, loving food sure is hard, eh?!

Anyway, I find it appropriate to discuss Asian cuisine for two reasons:

  1. I had an Asian food conversation with my student yesterday, which essentially involved my annoyance with how generously the term ‘Asian’ is used in cooking. Like I told her, throwing snap peas in a dish doesn’t an Asian meal make. Agree?
  2. Last time I checked, most of us are off on Monday and probably pondering the merits of using that ginormous grill on the front porch, or maybe stealing a grill from the neighbors’ porch, or maybe just buying one. either way, using a grill is something you should certainly consider arranging for Monday.
  3. My vacation photos still aren’t ready to submit here for your voyeuristic viewing pleasure, and fortunately this recipe is in my backlog of ‘things I would like to share with you’.

Hrrmmm…. I now realize that this is in fact, three reasons. Consider yourself fairly warned that I am in no mood to make sense of that, or to care. A lady almost barfed on me during my bus ride this morning, and I’m still a little bothered by the fact that her puke was less than exactly one inch from my ultra-cute rain boot that my right foot was in. And that she had three bags to select from in order to contain her puking, but instead the bus floor was her choice.

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to add that poison oak is a real bitch. Seriously – when does it go away? Are these blisters going to scar if I keep scratching them? Do people think that I have some contagious disease, and should I cover this crap up? This stuff is affecting my productivity at work, well, at life, really. It needs to stop.

Okay, and now I realize that I’ve talked about two things that are not appetizing. I’m sorry. Hopefully the pictures of yummy bbq chicken will keep your focus, even if it didn’t keep mine.

What you see here is in fact, a dish of barbecued chicken. But this isn’t my dad’s bbq chicken recipe (which I now have a hankerin’ for…), it’s an Asian-flavored barbecue sauce, and now you see the tie-in. Finally, right? I’m usually a little concerned when I see this much oyster sauce in a recipe, but you should know that those concerns were invalidated unvalidated super-duper-lame not true.

This is the type of recipe you wanna whip up for your friends. In other words, make this for your labor day partay. You could use any type of chicken (if I remember correctly, the original was a different part), or pork. The bbq sauce is sweet, but tangy, and though the original recipe didn’t call for the sesame seeds, I tend to enjoy the crunch of them. As for the roasted garlic, you can certainly tell that’s in there – and the smell of it withering itself away in the oven is what dreams are made of. Well, that and an arm free of blisters ;).

Twice-Glazed Asian Barbecued Chicken
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2010 (from Blackbird in Chicago); serves 4

printable version

ingredients
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 1/2 t black peppercorns
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 T canola oil
1/2 c oyster sauce
3 T low sodium soy sauce
1/3 c water
1/4 c white wine vinegar
8 chicken drumsticks
cilantro or parsley for garnish
white sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish

special stuff: spice grinder & a grill

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until soft. Squeeze the garlic from the skins into a small bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook the peppercorns over moderately high heat, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they are smoking and fragrant, 2 minutes. Transfer the peppercorns to a spice grinder and let cool completely, then grind to a coarse powder.

In the same skillet, cook the chopped onion in the canola oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted garlic, ground black pepper and oyster sauce and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the water and white wine vinegar and simmer over moderate heat until the barbecue sauce is very thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer the barbecue sauce to a blender and puree until smooth.

Light a grill. Oil the grates and grill the chicken drumsticks over moderately high heat until the skin is crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook over moderate heat until the chicken is almost white throughout, about 5 minutes. Generously brush the barbecue sauce onto the skin; turn and grill until glazed, about 30 seconds. Generously brush the other side with sauce, turn and grill the chicken until glazed. Repeat the glazing on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a work surface to rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with herb and sesame seeds.