Archives for category: Savory

Whenever I get a sushi craving, I head down to the nearby Japanese market and contemplate all the nicely cut slices of raw fish displayed for sale.  For several minutes, I stand in front of the case and ponder the pros and cons of the displayed ahi tuna, yellowtail or uni.  Then, quick as a flash, I grab unagi, salmon, tobiko and hotatgai and head for the door.  I am so.very boring because I go home and make the same sushi the same way I always do.  One of these days, I’m going to have to branch out.  One of these days, I will branch out.

Just not this last day.  Or perhaps the next.  But soon, I promise.

When I make sushi, I measure out 2 cups of sushi rice.  There are many ways to make the vinegar mixture you pour over the rice and many opinions about things like boiling the mixture together, fanning the rice or how to cook the rice.  But I usually don’t have the time to let a vinegar mixture cool, so I stir together 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar with 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. salt.  It can take awhile but most of it will dissolve and that’s good enough for me.

I take the rice bowl of our rice cooker, gently break up the rice with my rice paddle and let it cool on the counter for about 10 minutes.  Then I pour the vinegar mixture on top and mix it together.  While the rice is cooling, I prepare the seafood.  Usually once I am done preparing the seafood, the rice is slightly warm to the touch and still easily manipulated.  I one time made the mistake of letting the rice cool too much and it resulted in chunky rice distribution.  Talk about sushi fail.

This is what goes inside my favorite sushi roll:

I cut the scallops and salmon into small cubes and mix it all up with a little bit of mayonnaise and sriracha and a lot o’ bit of tobiko and green onion.  I could eat this with a spoon straight up.  I have eaten this with a spoon straight up.  I am not ashamed to admit that.  Luckily for Martin, some of it does end up rolled up with a couple of slices of avocado.

After that, the remaining rolls are some combination of this mixture, unagi and avocado.  I cannot for the life of me plate them attractively, so I just line them up on a plate and Martin and I happily stuff our faces.

Sushi My Way

2 cups sushi rice
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Filling (approximations):
5 sea scallops
1/4 lb. salmon
2 tbsp. tobiko
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp. sriracha
Other things that go inside sushi:
Even more tobiko
Thin avocado slices
Unagi (cooked in the oven)

1-  Cook the rice with equal parts water (or with the marking guide on the side of your rice cooker).

2-  When rice is finished cooking, take the rice out of the rice maker and let sit for 10 minutes.   Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and gently fold until the rice is evenly wet.

3-  Take a sheet of nori and place it shiny side down on top of a bamboo roller.  I think it took me eight sushi attempts before I realized which side was “shiny.”  Hey, no judging.  Use the rice paddle to scoop out some rice because you don’t like how the rice sticks to your fingers.  Use the paddle to gently spread the rice, leaving about a 1″ strip at the bottom of the nori free.

4-  Fill the strip with a thin line of the sushi mixture.  Add a couple of slices of avocado.  Starting with the side with the filling, gently and tightly start rolling the sushi up.  When it’s done rolling, use the bamboo roller to squeeze everything together.

5-  Splash a bit of water on your knife and tap it to shake off excess water.  Cut the roll in half, then line up the two halves together side by side.  Halve the halves, then halve each half again.

6-  Arrange on plate, eat and enjoy.

Servings:  6 rolls or 4 rolls and 4 hand rolls.

I have to say, it’s a good thing that I really like eggs as I have been eating a lot of them since our Tahoe trip. Most of the eggs were boiled until the yolks were just solidified and added to a salad. Some I made into single portion deviled eggs (my love of deviled eggs is well documented and knows no bounds). And then I took the great advice from the last post and used a whole bunch of them to make this quiche.

I dare not test my cholesterol anytime soon.

I have always liked quiche, though I tend to like them the most when there is a good crust-to-filling ratio. I’m all about the crust-to-filling ratio. I find that I’m still learning a lot about the things I like and the things I don’t like but at least I always hold true to my convictions.

Case in point, I like crispy breakfast foods. I like my bacon to be so crispy it shatters if you pick it up wrong. I like my biscuits to be browner than normal so they have some bite (rather than being doughy). I like my waffles to be crunchy and light, like buttery toast. I like crispy breakfast foods.

On the other side of the spectrum, I hate noodles in broth. My theory stems back to childhood road trips to visit my grandmother in New York. To prepare for the loooooooongOMG trip back home, my parents would pick up what they called won ton soup. It looked like this:

I should chime in here and say that I get really terrible motion sickness.  About two hours into the trip, my parents would pull over at a picnic area and we would eat this for lunch.  After awhile (I’m talking like 10 years), we started varying what we ate for lunch but the damage was done.  To this day, I cannot eat any kind of noodles in broth.  Pho, ramen, won ton soup – they are all big fat no’s in my book.

So believe me when I say that crust-to-filling ratio is very important to me and that I am quite consistent about it.  I love crust so the lower the ratio, the better.  Take, for example, Chinese dan ta, which is basically like a quiche without the savory ingredients.  I will not eat a dan ta if it takes more than 2 bites to consume.  I’m not talking two Martin bites either.  I mean two Melanie bites.  That amounts to basically a mini cupcake pan’s size dan ta.

When we were in Paris this past summer, one of my favorite memories was walking along some random street in Paris and picking some random bakery to buy lunch based on the goods displayed in their store window.  I chose a thick slice of salmon quiche, the kind that comes from a 9″ deep dish pie pan, if you can see where this is going.  Martin and I took our goodies to a small road-side park across the street from the Moulin Rouge and proceeded to munch away.  I will admit, the quiche was quite tasty but the whole time I kept thinking, “Damn, this is a lot of filling.  And a lot of salmon.”  It was a less than ideal crust-to-filling ratio.

So I’m thinking if I don’t start talking about quiche, I will have to rename this post to something like “Melanie’s Random and Esoteric Quirks.  OMG, seriously?”  And we don’t want that, do we?  So let’s talk about quiche!

This meal pulled together so quickly, thanks to a lot of shortcuts.  Really, the longest parts of this dish were waiting for the puff pastry to thaw out and for the quiche to bake.  And possibly to clean up the kitchen because I try to be a clean-as-I-go-er but if I’m in a hurry (as I was the night I made this), it’s more like let’s-make-the-kitchen-look-like-an-earthquake-hit-it.  A legitimate possibility, given that we live in California, except for the whole “explaining why only our kitchen was affected” dealio.

So, first I used puff pastry as a lazy man’s crust and a rectangular tart pan (crust-to-filling ratio, eeeet eeeez impoooortant!!).  Brushed it with a bit of Dijon, dropped a generous handful of cheese on top, topped with browned sausage and frozen spinach that had been reheated in the microwave.  Covered in eggs and heavy cream that had been whisked together with seasoning and ta da!  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  A great weekday meal.  If you also happen to have 3 dozen eggs in your refrigerator, I wholeheartedly recommend the quiche route.

So I kind of feel like I took a wrong turn somewhere.  I set out to make this:

And I ended up making this:

I think we can all agree which one looks more appealing.  I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have a clue when I dumped the mixed pasta into my casserole dish but I think I was hoping closing my eyes and wishing real hard would make it magically transform in the oven.  It did not.

Sadly, I think I under-salted so the whole dish was so very bland.  Bland and carb-y and heavy.  Not a very good combination.  But the almonds were a nice crunch.  And I’ve never had almonds on top of a casserole, so that was a new and interesting experience.

Seriously, is there any way to make casseroles look attractive after plating?  Will bake for photography tips!  My dutch oven for a horse!  Help, I need somebody!

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I was writing up this blog post and a thought occurred to me.  A terrible, terrible thought and I just scared the bejeesus out of Martin by making the weirdest sound ever.  I will re-enact said thought:

(Melanie skims the blog post)  Wow, this post is really depressing.  I should really – ohmygod, isn’t Chinese New Years soon?  Chinese New Years is soon!  Did I freaking miss Chinese New Years?!!? (googles “Chinese New Year 2011”)  Okay, lots of crap about the traditions behind Chinese New Years … where’s the date?  GIVE ME THE DATE.  February 3rd … are you serious?  That’s THURSDAY!  * unintelligible sound of frustration and disbelief**

Then I think I said “oh sh*t” a lot, actually aloud, thinking about how I am totally not ready for CNY.  First, I felt like a bad Chinese person and then I felt like a chicken with no head.  Then I irrationally had the thought that if I were a chicken with no head, I would at least be prepared for CNY, except you’re supposed to eat chicken with the head still attached so actually I’m in the same place I was five minutes ago.  Actually, maybe in a worse place, because now I’m a chicken with no head.  😦  It’s been a long day.

When Ashley and Jordo / Little J served the cracker-crusted tuna, they served it with bok choy mixed with a little garlic and sesame oil.  I didn’t have any bok choy, but I did have some corn and edamame in the freezer and this delicious-looking recipe.  The recipe, conveniently, even adds a dash of sesame oil for flavor!  The only things missing (besides bok choy) were Ashley and Jordan!

I cringe a little because I think there is (wait for it) too much yellow in this dish. I know, right!?  Can you believe I said that?  Was that a flying pig that just went past your window?  But it’s true.  When I was at the grocery store, the red cherry tomatoes were looking really sad, all pale and washed out looking, so I opted for the yellow cherry tomatoes.  My taste buds thank me but my eyes are a little bit sad.

Overall, a great and refreshing side that I could see being used multiple ways.  The sesame oil adds an interesting flavor. We omitted the cilantro because we are not cilantro fans.  The recipe also notes that it should be served hot or warm, but I thought it tasted pretty good cold the next day, too.

So really, this is Serious Eats’ Cracker-Crusted Fish, but Serious Eats didn’t make this delicious meal for me over the holiday break or host me and Martin at a fun dinner so forever more, I dub this “Jordo’s Cracker-Crusted Fish.” To be completely accurate, it should say Ashley, as she did the majority of the cooking, but I have literally been waiting on pins and needles for a chance to throw the nickname Jordo around and this might be his only chance!

When Jordan and Ashley made this dish for us, they used ahi tuna and it was amaaaaazing. Seriously, it blew my mind and as I was eating it, I kept wishing I had a bigger stomach so I could eat more. Martin is a fan of yellowtail, however, so I thought I would try that instead and I think the results were just as tasty (in a different, non ahi tuna way).

The nice crunch from the crackers and the tender fish is rounded out with a creamy dipping sauce. The sauce is a bit tangy from the citrus and has a little kick from the Sriracha. I used olive oil because I grabbed it by accident and the olive oil flavor does come through, but I didn’t mind too much. I do think that the canola oil would have made the citrus flavors a bit brighter.


Cracker Crusted Yellowtail
Adapted from the Serious Eats recipe

1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. tangerine juice
2 tsp. Sriracha
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 egg whites
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup finely crushed flatbread cracker crumbs
10 oz. sashimi-grade yellowtail

1- Combine egg yolk, salt, lime juice, tangerine juice and Sriracha in food processor or with immersion blender. Slowly drizzle in oil until well blended. Mix in green onions.

2- Whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cornstarch in small increments, whisking between, until egg whites are foamy.

3- Cut yellowtail filet into 2 relatively-square-ish portions. Dip fish into egg whites, then coat with cracker crumbs.

4- Heat a thick layer of oil (about 1/4″) in the bottom of a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Cook fish on skillet for approximately 30 seconds on each side or until crust is dark brown.

5- Serve sliced.

Servings
: 2

For 2011, my friend Kyle made the resolution to try 365 new recipes in 365 days.  She even made a Facebook group about it so that community members can track their progress and share recipes.  If this is something that interests you, you should definitely join!  It’s been really fun to write about my progress and read about everyone else’s, even though I am so seriously behind right now.

My first new recipe of the new year was Gourmet’s Butternut Squash Soup.  It was a cold, rainy, drizzly day – something warm and comforting seemed just what the doctor ordered.

Possibly unluckily for Martin, this was all I made for dinner.  I enjoyed two big bowl of it and was full, but I think Martin might have wanted something with a bit more filling power (re: protein).  I had cut out the bacon because we’re trying to cut back our consumption, so it was a strictly vegetarian soup.

I pureed all of the soup with an immersion blender (which I still haven’t gotten the hang of using).  The only other change I made was using sage rather than thyme and adding about 1/4 cup of cream for a little bit of extra richness.  I also cooked it down for awhile, because I like thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup.

I really enjoyed this soup topped with a handful of bread crumbs.  The texture was a bit on the grainy side (probably because I can’t figure out my immersion blender – or that is what I’ll tell myself!) but otherwise, very delicious.  I would definitely make this again.

Over the holidays, my friend Lisa gifted me a big bag of this amazing Chex Mix.  After the first couple of bites, I was hooked.  Martin and I could not stop eating it and pretty soon, the entire bag was gone (to our extreme sadness).  I immediately emailed Lisa, asking for this wonderful recipe, and she nicely obliged.

Since Martin and I obviously cannot exercise restraint around this Chex Mix, I decided not to go crazy and wait to make it for the next party I went to.  I made a recipe and a half, filling a big bowl, thinking there would be no way everyone would eat all of it and I’d be left with some portion to eat all by myself the next day.  Well, this just goes to show how delicious Lisa’s Chex Mix is, because at the end of the night, there was absolutely none left. None!

Note:  This is not the big bowl.  This is actually a very tiny bowl, so you can see what the Chex Mix looked like.  And maybe so you could see what is probably a normal-sized portion.

I think there are a lot of reasons this Chex Mix is so appealing.  There is a nice subtle spicy burn that you detect after eating a few pieces.  Everything is a snack food in its own right so they’re all nicely bite-sized.  And (well, maybe this applies only to me) I like everything that goes into the mix, so I’m not left with a lonely pile of rye chips at the end of the night.  Not that there’s anything wrong with rye chips.

The only change I made to Lisa’s recipe was swapping out pretzel sticks for mini pretzels.  This is partly because I have a really irrational dislike of pretzel sticks (I just don’t like them, okay?) and partly because I thought mini pretzels matched the shape of the mix better.  Yes, I think about these things.  What can I say?  I’m weird like that.

So here’s the recipe (thank you again, Lisa, for sharing it!).  It is so easy that in making it once, I can type it from memory already.  So, go ahead, get your snack on!  You’ll be glad you did!

Lisa’s Chex Mix

2 cups Cheez-Its
2 cups pretzels (sticks / minis)
2 cups  Bugles
1 cup unsweetened shredded wheat
1 cup corn Chex
1 cup pecans
1 stick butter
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 250-degrees F.

Combine the first six ingredients (Cheez-Its, pretzels, Bugles, shredded wheat, corn Chex and pecans) in a large bowl.

Combine the next five ingredients (butter, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper) in a small saucepan.  Melt butter and mix everything until well combined.

Drizzle over dry mixture, then toss to coat.  Spread out on an ungreased baking pan and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Yield:  A lot!  But maybe not enough for a party of 8.  Okay, about 7.5 cups.

I’m sitting here, a little bummed, because I tried to make saffron bread and after giving the dough about an hour to rise, it has not budged an inch, let alone doubled in size.  That’s what I get for trying to rush the dough-making process!  When will I learn?  I made some rolls for a potluck recently and I rushed then too and so the end result was not as soft and fluffy as I felt they should have been.

It’s been getting a little nippy here in California … and by nippy, I mean in the 60s.  Which is apparently only cold to me.  But I’m a wuss and when I’m cold, there’s nothing I like more than a warm bowl of soup and some hot sandwiches.  After mucking around in the rain, I came home and wanted tomato soup and grilled cheese but didn’t feel like making a trek out to the grocery store.  So I tried to see if I could make it just based on what I had in my apartment.

 

I was lucky and had some leftover fresh basil on hand from another recipe (so you don’t think I’m crazy and consider fresh basil a pantry staple).  🙂  I kept adding leaves until I could distinctly taste the basil and the tomato flavors.  Then I dropped in some butter and cream for richness.  Served with a very unhealthy grilled cheese sandwich, this totally hit the spot.

Tomato Basil Soup

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
20 – 25 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. butter
Salt
Pepper

Combine diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and amount of water equivalent to amount of tomato sauce in a large saucepan.  Stir together to combine and simmer at least 1 hour.

Add fresh basil leaves and puree mixture with an immersion blender.  Simmer for another half hour or so.

Stir in heavy whipping cream, butter and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.

Servings:  8

Dear Raincoast Crisps,

You are my new favorite snack.  I can’t seem to quit you, which is unfortunate as you’re considered gourmet / artisanal / something that means you comes with a high price tag.

I like you just the way you are, but you really shine when paired with cheese.  You’re crisp and chewy, sweet and salty, all at the same time.  Are you suffering from an identity crisis or just trying to appeal to all my senses at once?  If the latter, kudos, it’s working.

I admire how you’re not afraid to let your true colors shine through.  You’re so real, with your nuts, grains and dried fruit.  When I look at you, I can see exactly what you’re made of, and I like that.

Please know that I will always love you, but I think we would be better off as just friends.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Really.

XO, Melanie

PS. This won’t make meeting at the occasional party somewhat awkward, will it?

So yeah.  In case it wasn’t really obvious, I really like these crackers.  Unfortunately, it’s price tag makes it hard to justify as a regular purchase so I researched online and found a substitute recipe.  It’s a little more work but it yields me a small mountain of these crackers for about the same price.

Let’s make some crackers, shall we?

The recipe can be summarized as such:  mix ingredients (in one bowl, weeee!), pour into loaf pan, bake, cool, slice, bake.  Yes, bake it twice.  To make the slicing part easier, I line the loaf pan with parchment and lift it right out after it’s done baking.  Then I freeze the loaf overnight before slicing with a mandoline.  I tried slicing the loaf in half length-wise and then slicing, but the v-shaped mandoline of my mandoline makes it harder as the soft edges catch on the mandoline and rip.  Instead, it’s better to keep the loaf intact and then slice in half.

Look at all that color!  Sooooo yummy.

Sliced and ready to bake again.  See what I mean about it showing its true colors?

After they bake, they turn a darker shade of brown, more like what you’d see if you bought an actual box.

So go bake some (or come on over here!) and we can enjoy some together.  I’d serve these  paired with a triple-cream brie or a p’tit basque (my new favorite cheese, a semi-hard sheep’s milk).  Add in wine, good company in the form of a girl’s night and not much can beat it, in my opinion.  🙂

Raincoast Crisps Wannabe
from a ChowHound post, slightly tweaked

2 cups flour (I typically use white wheat flour)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (or other nut)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F and line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper.

Combine 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt together and mix to combine.  Add in 2 cups buttermilk and 1/4 cup honey, mixing gently to combine.

Add in 1 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary.  Mix gently to combine.

Pour into 2 loaf pans (a good trick is to weigh your mixing bowl before and after mixing the batter, then splitting that number into 2 to determine how much each loaf pan should weigh with half the batter in it).

Bake for 45 minutes at 350-degrees or until springy.  Cool completely on a rack, removing from loaf pan after 15 minutes.  Put in freezer to set before slicing.

Slice thinly (about 1/8″ cuts) and lay on baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.

Bake each side for approximately 10 – 15 minutes, until crisp and darker brown in color.  Let cool completely, then store in airtight container (storing while still warm will lead to condensation and less-crisp crackers).

Servings:  about 60 crackers

Last night, Martin and I had a jingle war.  I started regurgitating random jingles and he accused me of making them up because, in his opinion, no one would actually put jingles that sounded that bad on air.  So someone, quick, tell me a place where I can find these jingles in audio format so I can prove to him how wrong he is.  For some reason, my singing skills are not doing it for him – I honestly cannot imagine why.

Not that this will add to my credibility, but has anyone heard the Sexy Bitch song?  It is stuck in my head in a way you would not believe!  I walk around, saying, “Damn, who’s a sexy bitch?” like its my job.  And then last night, Martin corrected me and told me the line is actually, “Damn, you’s a sexy bitch.”

But I know I’m right about these jingles.  I am so sure I am right, I would bet you a big bowl of this awesome bolognese, which was one of the best pastas I’ve eaten in a long time.  I don’t know what it was, but I ate seconds (I rarely have the appetite for that) and I definitely did not mind eating these as leftovers.  The recipe came from a pasta book Michelle gave me, where I basically want to eat every pasta dish in the book.  I’m waiting for fall / winter to set in here before diving into more recipes because a lot of the dishes are heavier and not as summer-appropriate.

This dish is meaty and filling and substantial.  It’s perfect with a green salad and crusty garlic bread.  I almost didn’t spring for the fresh fettuccine because I have dry fettuccine in my pantry, but I am so glad I did.  It really made the dish.  The original recipe called for 2 packages, but I only bought one and I actually think I liked it better that way.  The photo that comes with the recipe (and that originally caught my eye!) looks fairly sparse in the sauce department and I like a high sauce to pasta ratio.  The sauce cooks down a lot, so it’s not very runny, it’s sort of like eating lasagna that you’ve mixed up.


Do you recognize the bread?  It’s rosemary focaccia, which I’d made the night before.  I threw them in the oven to warm them up slightly and forgot them … so they were very crisp.  Whoops.  🙂

Ragu Alla bolognese with Fettucine
from: Cooking Light: Pasta

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
5 oz. ground veal
5 oz. ground pork
5 oz. ground round
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (10 3/4 oz) can tomato puree
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pkg. fresh fettuccine
2 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrot.  Cook approx. 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Remove onion mixture from pan.

Add veal, pork and beef to pan and cook over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble.  Add wine, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Cook 5 minutes.

Add onion mixture back to the pan, along with chicken broth and tomato puree.  Mix to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer.  Cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir in milk and minced parsley.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.  Discard bay leaf.  Mixture should be thick, like chili.

Cook pasta according to directions.  Toss pasta with meat sauce and cheese.  Garnish with more parsley and cheese.

Servings:  8