Sunday, June 26, 2011


At my grocery store, fresh Chinese noodles come in one pound packages, which is too much for two people.  So if I make noodles, I've always got half a pack sitting around.  This recipe from Harumi's Japanese Cooking is specifically described as a way to use up left over noodles, so I had to try it! Harumi's yakisoba recipe has a mild sauce, though you can spice it up by adding a splash or two of rice vinegar and a spoonful of Japanese or Chinese mustard.  Don't use yellow or Dijon mustard, it'll taste weird.

The noodles are supposed to be cooked until they're crispy, which takes a long time, at least it did for me.  The bok choy adds some extra crunch if the noodles don't cooperate.  I used baby bok choy, it comes in bunches of three and it was enough for two people.  Aside from cooking the noodles until crunchy, this dish is pretty quick!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Smoked Lasagna. Or, My Dad is Awesome for Humoring Me.

Last Sunday was Father's Day.  My mom is in Ireland with her cousin.  At my parents' house, she's the cook.  So for the past two weeks, Dad has been eating Bachelor Chow.  He's always been willing to eat my experiments, so I decided to feed him a few times this week.  For Father's Day, I made lasagna.  Now, one of my rules of cooking is never to experiment on guests.  Normally, I only cook tried and true recipes for my friends and family, because I know some of my experiments end up looking like Klingon food, and sometimes they probably taste like it, too.  But, I was having problems choosing the perfect dish to cook for my dad.   He's the opposite of a picky eater, but I wanted it to be special.  

I got it in my head that I would make lasagna.  Prior to this, I had made lasagna once in my entire life.  And that, according to the date stamp on my picture, was in June 2008.   So pretty much three years ago.  It was a spinach lasagna.  My dad is a meat fan, so I decided to use a new recipe, thus violating my rule about experimenting on family.

After extensive googling, I decided to make Michael Symon's lasagna recipe.  I love Michael Symon, to the point where I happily fangirled all over myself when I went to his restaurant, Lola, with my husband and in-laws.  Anyway, I picked his recipe because it wasn't super complicated.  And it was Michael Symon, how could it go wrong?!

The lasagna looks awesome.  But you should smell my house.  And my hair. 

This recipe seemed like it would make enough lasagna to feed a family of 25 for a month.  But, somehow, it all fit into this dish.  It's not deep enough to be a lasagna dish, but it's the most appropriate dish that I have. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silken Chicken with Spinach and Wild Rice

This is a great recipe if you want to make something that looks impressive but with little effort.  The chicken itself only cooks for about 15 minutes if it's fresh or completely defrosted beforehand.  Baby spinach doesn't take very long to wilt, and wild rice needs 50 minutes to an hour to cook, but you can just ignore it on your back burner.  This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  The book's title is accurate unless you want to cook lamb, in which case a pressure cooker is required for the "quick" portion.  I don't have one, so I've only tried the poultry and vegetarian recipes, but they've all been great.  This is one of my favorites because it doesn't take long to cook and it has a complex flavor that tastes like I slaved away in the kitchen. 

The best thing about this chicken is the sauce.  The chicken is punctured several times with a sharp knife and has slits cut across the top, into which salt and lemon juice are rubbed before the sauce is poured on.  It's thick and creamy, so it clings to the chicken while it bakes.  It's slightly spicy, and sprinkling the extra cayenne, garam masala, cumin seeds, and mint gives it extra depth.  I serve it with rice and spinach, like the picture in the book. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meatless Monday: Fattoush and Fava Beans

I love the idea of Meatless Monday, but it doesn't always happen.  My goal is to make at least two vegetarian meals each week, sometimes I make more.  Whenever I make kofte kebab, I always have leftover pita bread.  It doesn't keep for very long and it's too tasty to let go bad.  Making fattoush is a good way to use up leftover pita, and it's healthy!  Fattoush is a bread salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, and herbs. The recipe I used from Arabesque also included romaine and mixed greens. The dressing is made with lemon juice, sumac, salt, and pepper.   I have a "sour tooth" so I love using lemon juice in salad dressing.  One of the many things that drew me to Middle Eastern cooking was that lemons are a popular ingredient.  Ever since I started experimenting with Middle Eastern food, I buy up to six lemons a week, it's awesome.

The side dish is a result of an impulse buy.  I was on my way to the green beans when I saw the fava beans.  I had no idea what to do with them at the time.  I boiled them for 5 minutes and sauteed them with some canned artichokes I had in the pantry, a little crushed red pepper, and a little too much harissa.  I'd definitely do it again since it was so easy, but I'd go easier on the harissa.  They were too spicy for my husband and almost too spicy for me.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Goulash: A Spicy Way to Use Leftover Ground Meat

I love goulash! It's a great way to use up leftover ground meat.  You can use ground beef, lamb, veal, or a combination to make this dinner.  I think I've used ground pork, too.  My love for goulash began when I was a kid and my mom made a dish called "American Chop Suey," which was shell pasta, ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes, and spices.  Later on, I started calling it "goulash" because it reminded me more of Hungarian goulash than it did chop suey.  (Who was it that said if you order chop suey, you get what you deserve?)

This recipe began as one of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals.  But, I've been making it for years and now it's very different.  The basic ingredients are the same, but I've changed the spices and ratios.  The original recipe is here, but it won't taste nearly as good as mine! ;)  This is a great comfort food, and it's easy to make if you've got some random leftover ground meat in the freezer.   

Goulash! Also a great way to use radishes

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sea Bass in Creamy Tomato Sauce with Tabbouleh

Sea bass is one of my favorite fish, I love its buttery texture.  I'm always looking for interesting recipes for sea bass, and this one for fish with creamy tomato sauce caught my eye.  The original recipe used swordfish, but it mentioned that sea bass, bluefish, or any meaty fish would do.  The sauce itself is quite flavorful, but it's not what I would describe as "creamy," as it only required 2 Tbsp of cream on top of 1/2 cup water and a can of diced tomatoes.  There was a hint of creaminess, but the dominant flavor was tomato.  I paired this with some homemade tabbouleh and store-bought dolmas.  The tabbouleh is labor intensive, but tasty.  It's also easily found in a lot of large grocery stores.  The fish dish itself doesn't require a ton of prep work, and to cook it you just throw it in the oven and ignore it except to turn the fish over.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shiitake Risotto with Lemongrass and Ginger

I've watched enough Top Chef to know that risotto needs to be made perfectly or people will be grievously offended.  After the most recent season, I learned that risotto is supposed to "spread" when you put it in the bowl.  When I was on vacation in St. Barth a few months ago, Dave and I went to an Italian restaurant.  The owner had imported the entire staff - waiters and chefs - from Italy.  I had some wild boar risotto and prodded at it for a few minutes before eating it. It was *fabulous,* and nothing like anything I'd ever made.  I thought I could make a great risotto before I tried this stuff.  It definitely spread out nicely, unlike the risottos I've attempted.  My risotto tends to "pile," which means that I make it too dry, probably because I get impatient and declare it finished when it looks like risotto in the pan instead of giving it some extra liquid to finish it.  So, when I made this shiitake risotto, I tried to make it with additional chicken broth so that it would "spread."  Initially, it did, but I made a ton of it, and by the time I got it all in my bowl, it looked like Mt. Risotto.  So, it's something for me to work on. 

Dave recently decided that he no longer hates mushrooms, which is awesome because I love them.  He likes shiitakes, so I found this recipe for shiitake risotto.  It was very tasty, despite being more pile-y than spread-y.  It has only a few ingredients.  I didn't have enough chicken stock, and ended up using a mix of chicken stock and veggie stock.  I think that this dish could easily be made vegetarian by using veggie stock and a little extra salt.  If you love shiitakes, this is a great dish because the mushrooms flavor the rice, too.  I was skeptical of this recipe because other risottos I've made always included a ton of cheese, but I didn't notice its absence. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Japanese Meal

I bought Harumi's Japanese Cooking years ago, before I was ready to use it.  I was a little intimidated by the Japanese ingredients because I was still getting used to the idea that I could cook food that didn't get me a free ride in an ambulance.

I've been wanting to make chicken "kari kari" style from Harumi's Japanese Cooking for a long time.  But, I've never wanted to cut 1/2 cup worth of chives for one meal. Over the winter, I let my chives grow a little wild and they desperately needed a haircut.  So this was the perfect time to try it.  I needed a side dish, so I chose her green beans with black sesame sauce.  I also decided to toss in a Vietnamese appetizer because I wanted to try my new Vietnamese cilantro and I had rice paper in my pantry.  This meal was simple, healthy, and very, very good!  Leave out the Vietnamese summer roll and it can be made even more quickly. 


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