April 29, 2010

For the second time this week I’ve been seduced by the call of the Minimalist. This time, I was thinking about a video from back in February about Yakisoba. He describes the sauce for yakisoba as any number of ingredients — mostly condiments — that make up a slightly sweet and salty, though decidedly Asian sauce.

Yakisoba was a fairly common meal in our house growing up. We’d buy the fresh egg noodles from that Maruchan company (yup, the same people who make every college student’s Ramen stash), stir fry up some pork or chicken, vegetables, and pour on the sauce from the package. Honestly, I still crave that meal sometimes. It’s that good. And in fact, I don’t discourage you from trying it.

Nevertheless making your own sauce is really simple so there’s not a whole lot of reason to not do it. And while yakisoba is made with chinese-style egg noodles traditionally, I actually enjoy the tenderness of Japanese soba noodles, made with buckwheat. You could use any number of noodles that you’d like, including Italian angel hair (in a pinch), but I’d stick with either tradition or soba.


For the sauce:
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. worcestershire sauce
2 T. mirin, honey, or sugar
2 T. ketchup
2-3 dashes (to taste) tabasco sauce PLUS 1 dash or more sriracha if you have it.
1/2 t. dijon mustard

Everything else:
2 T. ginger, minced
1 T. garlic, minced
3 thin-sliced pork chops, cut into strips
2 carrots, finely diced or shredded
1 small head savoy cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups or to taste)
Any other vegetable you love, like snow peas or mushrooms, about the same quantity as carrots.

  • Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside. (boy that was easy)
  • Bring a pot full of salty water to a boil over medium high heat. When boiling, boil noodles according to package until tender. Drain in a colander and toss with a little sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside. (see? nothing to it!)
  • In a large skillet or Chinese wok heat 3 tablespoons of peanut oil until hot. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 60 seconds or so.
  • Add pork and saute until it begins to brown. Don’t worry about fully cooking the meat here as it will continue to cook as we continue on to the next step.
  • Add carrots and cabbage and saute for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender. You might need a little water in case it starts to stick. I didn’t though.
  • Add noodles and sauce and toss together until well combined and the noodles are warmed through.
  • Serve, garnished with chopped scallions and more sriracha to taste.

Here’s the before and after. Clearly we liked it.


Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

April 28, 2010

Believe me, I love me some good fajitas. But you know, I live in San Diego and Mexican food is everywhere. Really good Mexican food. Everywhere. So when I saw some really great skirt steak at the market this week, I thought of taking the fajita steak staple and turn it into something a little different, something say, Italian.

Well, wouldn’t you know it I made a nice tangy balsamic marinade and then turned my attention to the side dish options. I roasted up some bell peppers, sauteed some onions and before I knew it, I was one tortilla away from, you guessed it, fajitas.

Thank God we were out of tortillas. How embarrassing!

Back to the steak (I’m eating it as I’m writing this, by the way, so I can tell you it’s delicious and you should make it tonight). The marinade was a simple mix of balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, some dried herbs (thyme, oregano, and fennel seed and yes you could use fresh herbs here, too), red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley. Poured over the steak and marinaded for an hour the steak was incredibly flavorful and sweet.

So skirt steak isn’t just for fajitas anymore! They’re also for, well, okay Italian fajitas.

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 t. dijon or yellow mustard
1 T. kosher salt
1 t. ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 t. each oregano, thyme, fennel seed
1 t. dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 small handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 lb. – 1.5 lbs. skirt steak, cut into 4-6″ pieces (any more than this and you’ll probably need to increase quantity of the marinade)

  • Sprinkle steak pieces with a small amount of kosher salt on both sides, set aside for 10 minutes or up to a day.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix all ingredients (except the steak) together until they form a smooth sauce. Pour into a quart-sized zip log bag. Add steak and marinate for 1-2 hours. I wouldn’t go for too long here because a) the steaks are thin and b) it will get pretty salty after too much longer. Honestly a short marinade time here will be fine.
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. When hot, sear each steak for 60 seconds on each side until brown.
  • Remove steaks from heat and immediately wrap in foil for 10 minutes.
  • Cut steaks across the grain and serve as you please.



Radicchio and Shrimp Soup with Rice

April 27, 2010

Every week or so, Mark Bittman writes another column and produces a short video segment for the New York Times under his culinary pseudonym, The Minimalist. Those of you who have read this blog for a while will recognize that many of the dishes that I prepare on a regular basis come straight from either the Minimalist column or from his cookbook, modestly titled The Best Recipes in the World.

Tonight’s quick meal is no exception. After having watched his video on a soup made from bitter greens, rice, and water, I thought I’d make my own version, enhancing the flavors a bit and making it a bit heartier for a springtime supper.

A thoughts: radicchio (and the escarole Bittman uses) is quite bitter. If bitter’s not your thing, swiss chard or even spinach could be used in this recipe, though the cooking times would have to be adjusted. I like the bitterness of the greens though, and encourage you to try them. It cooks up in 20 minutes, makes plenty of leftovers, and is just really good.

Radicchio and Shrimp Soup with Rice
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist

1 slice of bacon
1/2 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Scant 1/2 c. short grain white rice, such as arborio
1/4 c. dry white wine.
1 head radicchio, cleaned and coarsely chopped (about 3-4 cups)
6 c. good chicken broth or stock
1 c. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

  • In a dutch oven or large, deep saute pan, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add bacon and fry until fat is rendered. Reserve the bacon (minced) as garnish.
  • Add onions and saute for a minute or two until translucent. Add garlic and continue to saute for 30 seconds more. Add rice and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add white wine and stir until absorbed. Then add greens and stock, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and cover.
  • Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the greens and rice are both tender.
  • Add shrimp and cover until shrimp are cooked through.
  • Adjust seasonings, garnish with bacon, and serve with crusty bread.

And once I get my camera back from my friend, these photos will improve. I’ve included (probably illegally) Mark Bittman’s for comparison (his is the pretty one).


Guest Blog Post: Roast Lemon Chicken

April 23, 2010

My cousin Karlye lives in Toronto, Ontario (that’s in Canada, people) with her husband Jeff and her two adorable kids, McCoy and Margo. Here’s a photo of me with the two little ones. She’s also an excellent cook and a great cousin, too!

Moms’ Night Out. Three of the greatest words I’ve ever heard. I am very lucky to have a fabulous group of gal pals – we meet weekly with our littlest ones and once a month or so, we gather over a meal to laugh, laugh, and laugh some more.

We eat good food and drink great wine. This month’s meal was no exception. For inspiration I turned to another one of my gal pals, Ms. Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa). As a busy mom of two little kiddos, I’m always looking for something quick, relatively easy, healthy and delicious! Ina never lets me down. About a year ago I purchased her Barefoot in Paris cookbook and wow, it’s fantastic. Almost as good as being in Paris. Almost.

The first meal I made from Barefoot in Paris was Lemon Chicken. I could not believe how easy and tasty it was – a big hit in our household. But for this month’s mommy gathering, I chose bone-in chicken breasts instead of the whole chicken Ina calls for. I figured it would be easier to serve (and clean up!). I was right.

I started by covering baby red potatoes, sliced onions and lemon wedges in olive oil. Then I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and topped it all with the chicken breasts. Before popping the chicken in the oven, I slid a very thin slice of lemon under the skin of each chicken breast and then poured three tablespoons of melted butter over the entire dish. I cooked the dish for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees then threw in a handful of baby carrots, gave them a quick toss with the other goodies in the pan and cooked it all for another 15 minutes or so. The lemony juice that collects in the pan is perfect for pouring over the chicken and veggies!

And I mustn’t fail to mention that this meal was a potluck; in addition to roasted lemon chicken and a delicious mache and strawberry salad, we enjoyed a delicious start and end to our meal – a cheese platter from our local cheese shop and a divine chocolate torte from our local patisserie.

There are many things that make a dinner gathering a night to remember. I’m a fan of pulling out all the stops – fresh flowers, great music, the good china – but what really makes it special is being with dear friends and enjoying a meal like this.

One final note: I originally thought Ina Garten was a bit snobby when she suggested buying the most expensive chicken one can find, but now I agree with her. I’ve made this dish many times and can attest to the fact that chicken bought from our local butcher tastes much better. It’s worth the splurge, trust me! Especially if you’re making this meal for someone special, or in my case, someone special times 5.

Bon Appétit!

Barefoot Contessa Lemon Chicken
Inspired by Ina Garten

1 (4-5 pound) roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced
Really good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a roasting pan.
  • Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Place the lemons inside the chicken.
  • Pat the outside of the chicken dry, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear.
  • During the last 15 – 20 minutes of roasting, add some baby carrots to the roasting pan.
  • Cover with foil and allow the chicken to sit it at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Slice chicken and cover with pan juices. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

It looks like this:


Check out my new column on SDGLN.com

April 22, 2010

Hey there readers! I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be back soon with some new recipes and ideas, as well as a guest blog post from Karlye Butler, my cousin up in Toronto!

Have a great week and check out the new blog, Food For Thought, that I’m writing for SDGLN.com!

Thanks for your patience during this slow month and look out for some great new posts soon. Here’s some eye candy (fried chickpeas and spinach) in the meantime.


Strawberry Buttermilk Shortcake

April 2, 2010

I was shocked when, two weeks ago at the farmer’s market, I tasted really good strawberries. I mean, it’s only March (okay, April) and the strawberries are already sweet and juicy. I can tell you i was even more shocked when the strawberries I tasted at Whole Foods were just as sweet and just as juicy. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that they were probably grown on the same farm.

Nevertheless, it seemed like it was a good idea to celebrate the beginning of Spring and all the berries and stone fruit to come in the next few months with a little bit of shortcake.

My shortcake recipe is the same as the buttermilk biscuit recipe from my second post ever way back in December, 2007! I add a tablespoon more sugar and some lemon zest to sweeten it up, split it across the center, fill with strawberries and whipped cream, and voilà!

So please enjoy the beginning of Spring and all the great recipes to come! Oh, and have you tried the asparagus recently? It’s getting so, so good.

Strawberry Buttermilk Shortcake
Biscuit recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

16 oz. strawberries, washed and sliced in half
2 T. sugar or honey

1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 T. sugar
1/2 t. table salt
1/2 c. buttermilk (cold)
4 T. unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 t. vanilla extract

  • In a large bowl, toss strawberries with 2 T. sugar, set aside
  • Preheat oven to 450°
  • Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl, set aside
  • Pour melted and cooled butter into cold buttermilk and stir until it turns clumpy. You’ll probably think you ruined the recipe at this point, but have faith! These little bits of butter clumps will turn into pockets of air helping to turn your biscuits into fluffy shortcakes later!
  • Using a rubber spatula, gently incorporate the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until it is just mixed. Don’t worry about small streaks or tiny pockets of flour as they’ll bake out in the end. You really want to avoid over-mixing (sounds like we’re making pancakes, right?).
  • On a baking sheet lined with parchment, drop biscuit dough into four equal portions about 3″ in diameter and leaving about 2″ of space in between each biscuit.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until tops are brown and crisp.
  • Brush tops with butter and let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing.
  • In an electric mixer (or by hand), whip cream and vanilla until they form soft peaks.
  • Slice biscuits across in half. Place 1/4 of the strawberries on each biscuit bottom, topped with whipped cream and then the biscuit top. Serve immediately.

Enjoy everyone!


Spanish Garlic Shrimp

April 1, 2010

Amazing. I can’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe yet. This is one of those stand-bys in my house that I make, say, monthly. These shrimp are incredibly versatile. You end up with these tender shrimp and incredibly aromatic and flavorful olive oil perfect for dipping bread after you’ve polished off the shrimp.

Here’s a few serving suggestions, just to get you started:

  • toss some cooked spaghetti noodles into the pan when you’re finished and you have a quick and delicious pasta dish
  • serve over warm cheesy polenta for shrimp and grits
  • three or four of these shrimp on top of a green salad make an ordinary garden salad look like the start to a a gourmet feast
  • make a quick saffron garlic aioli and drizzle on top for a aromatic Spanish appetizer

As you can see the possibilities are quite endless. So peel some shrimp and get started!

Spanish Garlic Shrimp

16-20 medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 nice sized pinches of kosher salt
1/4 c. good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. yellow onion or shallots, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. smoked paprika (or sweet will do, too)
1 t. fennel seeds
1/4 t. or to taste crushed red pepper flakes
1 T. lemon juice (optional)
Chopped italian parsley, to garnish

  • Toss prepared shrimp with kosher salt, set aside
  • Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add olive oil. Warm for 30 seconds.
  • Add onions and saute for 30-45 seconds. Add garlic, paprika, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes and cook until aromatic.
  • Add shrimp, making sure not to crowd them too tightly. There should be a little space in between each shrimp. This helps avoid steaming the shrimp, which you don’t want to do.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip shrimp over and cook for another 2 minutes, until cooked through but still tender.
  • Add lemon juice (if using) and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Enjoy, everyone! Come back tomorrow for Strawberry Shortcake with this season’s first strawberries. Delicious!