Monthly Archives: August 2013

Salmon!

When we were in Alaska, we learned that they have 5 different species of salmon that hang out in their waters.  It makes zero difference to me – all of them are delicious.

I decided to make some salmon tonight when Sam told me he wanted fish for dinner.  Actually I had already been thinking of baking some, but I somehow thought he didn’t like salmon so I ignored the fish aisle until I received his text.  Later I found out that salmon is his favorite fish.  Oops.

When I was little, my grandma would often overcook non-Chinese dishes such as pork chops or salmon (thankfully her Chinese dishes were superb), and I’m pretty sure that’s why I like sashimi and steak tartare as an adult.  So whenever I cook meat, I make sure it’s super tender, flavorful and juicy, which usually involves some sort of marinade.

Fish is one of those things that was really intimidating for me to make at first.  It seems really delicate, and it’s not really something you can just chop up and fry.  But it’s actually super easy, and if you enlist the help of your oven, it practically does all the work for you.  So here’s my super simple salmon (hah!) recipe which, really, if I can make it, anyone can.

Ingredients you’ll need:

3 lemons
Olive oil
Salt + pepper
Two boneless salmon filets (or any kind of fish that will hold up for baking – I also like black cod)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
Any kind of mustard (I prefer Dijon or garlic)

To make the marinade, start by mincing and dicing the garlic and shallot.  If you like garlic (like Sam and me), use 3 or 4 cloves.  If you don’t, you are more than welcome to just use one, or completely omit.  Combine these in a bowl with the juice of one lemon (don’t worry if you get the seeds in there), a pinch of salt and pepper, two teaspoons of mustard, and about half a cup of olive oil (more if you are making more than 2 servings, or if your filets are extra huge).

Put the salmon filets in either a baking dish or gallon-sized Ziploc bag, and pour the marinade over the fish.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely cover the fish; you can flip the fish halfway through.  Marinate for about 10 minutes.

Once it’s done marinating, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking dish with parchment paper.  This step is completely optional, but it will basically save your life when it comes to cleanup.  Make sure you have enough paper to loosely wrap up the salmon like a package.  Slice up the other two lemons, about 1/4″ thick, and place on the bottom of the dish.

Lemons!

Place the marinated salmon on the slices of lemon, and if desired, pour the marinade directly on top.

Marinated

Wrap up the ends of the parchment paper loosely so it can trap most of the steam inside.  It should look like a magical Christmas package, except more delicious.  Bake for about 17 minutes; if your salmon is more than 1″ thick, add on two extra minutes.

Eat.  (Sorry for the lack of a complete photo – this was too delicious to resist, plus I had to sample my cooking to make sure it tasted okay..)

Remnants

A few things to note:

  • This recipe will make your salmon medium rare to medium, which results in the best, juiciest, most tender middle with a moist and flaky outside.  Mine practically looked like sashimi in the middle, and I’m still alive today, so it’s fine to eat your salmon medium rare.  But if you like your salmon really well-done, just cook it to your liking.
  • You can also substitute half a small onion for the shallot, but I think I’ve mentioned before in another post that I prefer the more mild taste of shallots, plus they’re the perfect size.
  • If you like fancy mustard, by all means, use it!  I had this wonderful garlic mustard that I found at a winery, and hello, garlic, I love you.
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One-Pan Pasta

I’m pretty domestic now.

To give you an idea of how far I’ve come, I used to own one cookware item.  One.  It was a straight-sided sauté pan.  Technically if you count the lid, you could say I owned two pieces of cookware.  If you opened my refrigerator, you would find these things: bacon, beer, and ketchup.  My freezer had nothing more than frozen potatoes.  I learned that frying up the potatoes in the bacon grease in my single pan made for a bomb-diggity breakfast.

I should also add that my pan cost me $12.99 from Target (or was it TJ Maxx?), and the only reason I bought it was because I thought it was perfect for making Hamburger Helper.  And to give you an idea of exactly how un-domestic and lazy I was back then, I didn’t even have milk in my refrigerator, so I would only pick the flavors of Hamburger Helper that didn’t require some sort of cheesy sauce.

Then I met Sam, and he moved all of his kitchen stuff into my kitchen, and now I don’t have room for the gadgets that I do want now: a stand mixer, food processor/slicer, etc.  Also, my refrigerator is stocked to the point where I can probably make cupcakes on a whim.  So sometimes I do.  Today I made chocolate ice cream just because I could.. and because I didn’t want some of my fresh ingredients (eggs, cream, etc) to spoil while I’m gone over the weekend.

The point of the story is that my trusty pan has seen me through my bachelorette days with what my friends affectionately call my “lumberjack breakfasts,” and now it’s the perfect item for making one of my new favorite dishes: the one-pan pasta.

I first saw this recipe in a Martha Stewart Living magazine (which, fyi, I’m totally obsessed with her and Barefoot Contessa.  I want them to be my unofficial aunts so they can plan fabulous parties for me).  The sheer beauty and simplicity of the dish made me want to try it.  So I did, and I totally loved everything about it.

Over the past few trials, I’ve modified the recipe a bit to my liking.  But here is the original, with some of my changes:

  • 12 ounces linguine  — I actually just dump in the entire box, and I prefer fettucine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)  —  I prefer shallots, as you can use two and they have a milder flavor than onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced  — I prefer to chop them up
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes  — more if you like a stronger kick
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish  — I’m not a fan of basil, so one time I just put two or three leaves, and threw in some arugula instead
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth + 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

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The great thing about this dish is that the only prep you’ll have to do is slice, chop, halve the onions, garlic and tomatoes.  Then everything else goes into the pan.

Boom.

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Have you seen anything more gorgeous?

Throw everything into the pan, then bring the water and vegetable broth to a boil over high heat, and let it bubble away for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally with tongs so the pasta doesn’t stick together.

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At some point, you’re going to wonder if it’s actually going to work, because it doesn’t look very cohesive.  But fret not: the sauce doesn’t start to thicken up until literally the last minute of cooking.

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Once the noodles are al dente, dish it up, grate some fresh parmesan on top, and eat.  THAT SIMPLE.

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A few things to note:

– You can use any type of pasta that has a cooking time of about 12-13 minutes.  If you’re gluten-free, you may have to play around with it, as gluten-free pastas have much shorter cooking times, and the ratio of water to pasta may be too much, and the sauce won’t thicken up in time.  Plus, gluten-free pastas turn to mush when they’re overcooked.

– You can also throw in some other ingredients after it’s done cooking, like baby spinach or grilled shrimp.  Or you can just leave it as it is (it’s super vegetarian-friendly), and it’ll taste like it came from a kitchen in a rustic Italian villa.

– If you’re freaking out about the sauce not thickening up, just keep stirring, and magically at some point it will turn into a beautiful dish.  Seriously, trust me on this one.  I’ve made this dish numerous times, and I still sort of freak out at minute 11 because it’s still watery.  Then at minute 12, it’s suddenly perfect.  And I also forgot half a cup of water today, but it still turned out delicious.  Really, I don’t think there’s a way for you to mess this up.

Happy cooking!

Party in the Kitchen!

Stop and take a look.

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Have you seen anything quite so awesome in recent memory?  It’s like a unicorn ate fairy dust and pooped it out, but in the most awesome way possible.

These are Funfetti Whoopie Pies, from Yammie’s Noshery.  My friend Lei turned me on to these after sort of hinting that it would be super sweet to have someone make these on their days off.  Cough.

So of course I had to make them, because 1) they ask for lots of butter, 2) they ask for imitation butter flavor, and 3) SPRINKLES.  Everywhere.  Even though I always make fun of Sam for ordering rainbow sprinkles on top of his ice cream (because let’s get real, they don’t add any special flavor), I love them on cookies.

Here’s the recipe:

Funfetti Whoopie Pies

Cookies:

2 sticks softened butter
1 1/4 cup sugar (I modified this by only using just under 1 cup, since I didn’t want it too sweet)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon imitation butter flavor
1 egg
2 cups cake flour
2/3 all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup colored sprinkles (I used the long kind)
More sprinkles for rolling (I used the little round kind)

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Beat the butter and sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes or until fluffy. Add the vanilla, butter flavor, and egg. Beat until well combined. Sift in the flours, soda, and salt. Mix to combine. Stir in the sprinkles. Chill the dough. If you’re in a hurry, throw it in the freezer. I put it in a gallon Ziploc bag and pounded it down flat so it would get cold faster. Preheat the oven to 375º. Take a small piece of the dough, dip in the sprinkles and roll into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until the sheet is filled. Bake about 7 minutes.

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Keep the remaining dough in the freezer while the others are baking. They will flatten out as they bake and puff up a little when they’re done. Sandwich cooled cookies together with filling if desired (recipe below).

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Seriously, these cookies are good enough without the filling.  I’m honestly not a huge fan of the frosting, since I don’t like any type of frosting, but I’ll probably try to create my own sometime.

Filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks cold butter, chopped into small cubes
2 tablespoons sprinkles (I used the little round ones)

Beat the cream and vanilla until slightly thickened. Beat in the powdered sugar until thick and smooth. Beat in about one fourth of the cold butter cubes at a time on high speed. Beat for about 10 minutes on high speed in your stand mixer until smooth. Don’t be afraid if it looks weird at first. Just keep beating! Fold in the sprinkles. Use to fill cooled cookies.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, your arm will probably get pretty tired (and not to mention you’ll probably start to get bored after a few minutes) from using a hand mixer, but it does work just as well.  And if you don’t have any pastry/piping bags or fancy icing tips, you can just use a large Ziploc bag and snip one of the corners off.

And there you have it.  The most fun you can have with food, sans alcohol.

P.S. Make sure you don’t spill half the container of little round sprinkles.  Not that I’m telling you from experience or anything..

My Wingdog

When I first adopted Dog, everyone was like, oh my God you are going to meet so many cute guys with this creature.

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Let me tell you about how I had pretty much the exact opposite experience.  I was mostly single for the first 3 years that I had him, and not once did I meet a single, straight guy while I was out with Dog.

I believe there’s a common thing that people leave out when they say “dogs are great pickup tools for snagging yourself a date.”  For single guys to have any kind of dog, that’s like a gold mine.  Girls will be all over that.  But for single girls to have a fuzzy, floppy, Muppet-like dog, the only types of people you will attract are gay men, other women, and families with children.

I never really actually expected to land a date from having Dog.  I didn’t adopt him so I could meet people – I adopted him because he was cute, fuzzy and liked to sleep in.  But the incredible irony of this entire situation is that ever since I started being in a relationship, Dog has led me to a bunch of men (straight, though marital status unknown).

Dog does not have the best senses.  He doesn’t use his nose to sniff people out, nor can he see very well.  I think he’s near-sighted, but a trainer once told me that different dogs have differently-shaped eyes for whatever they’re meant to do with their lives; obviously being a sheep-herder is nowhere in his destiny, so he does not have eyes meant for scanning the horizon.  I’m going to stick with the theory that he’s just near-sighted.

One afternoon, Sam and I were taking him for a walk when we discovered that we had no more poop bags.  And OF COURSE this was right after Dog took a massive dump, so we couldn’t just hightail it out of there.  Luckily we were only about two blocks from home, so Sam ran home to grab a new roll of bags, and Dog and I stayed behind so people who happened to be watching wouldn’t think that we were irresponsible.

As Sam took off, Dog freaked out and tried to go after him.  I told him to sit, and he waited impatiently for Sam to come back, never looking away from the direction in which Sam ran.  I tried to distract him, but he remained glued to his post.

After a few minutes, a guy came walking our way.  He was about the same height and build as Sam.  Dog became really excited and tried to run over to him, wagging his tail.  Luckily the guy found it amusing, and I had to explain that Dog thought he was someone else.  After Dog realized it wasn’t Sam, he went right back to his spot on the sidewalk and continued to stare down the street.

The same thing happened yesterday when I took Dog for a walk sans Sam (part of my staycation duties).  As we headed up the street, a guy came out from an apartment building wearing Sam-style (aka Marina Boy) clothes.  Since we were about 8 feet in front of this guy, Dog kept trying to run back towards him, and I’m sure the guy was a bit freaked out, seeing as Dog is pretty big, and having a large animal lunge towards you repeatedly is not a common occurrence.  I finally had to explain to him that Dog thought he was someone else.

I won’t lie and say these guys weren’t cute.  They totally were.  I mean, they sort of looked like Sam (the funny thing is, all the guys who Dog confused with Sam had the same facial hair stylings as Sam), and of course I think Sam is cute (I’ve told Sam before that if I hadn’t thought he was cute, I wouldn’t marry him because I’m really superficial like that.  He thinks I’m kidding, but I am really not).

The moral of the story is, if you’re a single girl and want to have an instant icebreaker for talking to a cute guy, don’t get a floppy fuzzy Muppet.  Get something more manly, and guys are suckers for rescue dogs (hint: it makes you look like you have a really big warm heart, even if you’re heartless).

Say Cheese

Behold.  The great American comfort food.  My frenemy (because I’m lactose-intolerant).

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That’s right.  Macaroni & cheese.  In case you were wondering why this looks kind of funky, it’s because I used the little bow-tie pasta, and these are made with vegetables (along with flour).  I saw them at the supermarket one time and decided to buy them, and 6 months later they’re finally seeing daylight/boiling water.

When I told Sam that I was officially going to veg out for 2.5 weeks, he immediately told me that I could start doing “trophy wife stuff,” which normally wouldn’t include cooking (because we’d have a housekeeper if I was trophy wife, duh).  So I did tell him that I’d make dinner every night, and today I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store.

What do you do with boxes of pasta, 8 oz. of garlic white cheddar cheese in block form, and butter?  Obviously make magic.

If you’re looking for a quick easy one, I’m not sure this is it, because you can’t just melt the cheese down and dump in the pasta.  This one uses a bechamel base, which means lots of whisking/upper arm movement.  Here’s the recipe (using basic guidelines from Homeroom’s Macaroni & Cheese):

1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 tbsp butter (I usually keep a few of those tiny half-sticks handy)
8 oz grated cheese (I love garlic white cheddar, but you really can use any combination of smooth-melting cheese.  Also, if you don’t want it to be TOO cheesy, you can reduce the amount a bit to thin out the sauce)
About 2 oz grated pecorino romano for a really cool taste (totally optional)
1 lb pasta of your choice

Boil a huge pot of salted water (according to Alton Brown, it should taste like the ocean).  Start by heating up the milk in a saucepan until hot (make sure it doesn’t boil).  While that’s going, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking (trust me) for about 3 minutes, until it turns a nice golden brown and doesn’t smell like raw flour anymore.  Add the hot milk, and keep whisking for about 3 minutes.  It should smooth out and you’ll know you’ve cooked and stirred it long enough when it coats the back of a spoon (it’ll be pretty thick).  Salt to taste, but keep in mind that once you add the cheese, depending on which kind(s) you use, it can get pretty salty.

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This is my upper arm workout for the day.

Cook the pasta until about 1 minute before it’s al dente, unless you want to skip the oven part.  Just before it’s ready, dump in the grated cheese (actually grating a block of cheese is better than pre-packaged cheese, because it melts a lot more nicely), stir until smooth, and then stir in the pasta (I’m assuming you already know to drain and rinse the pasta first).

ImageI could probably eat this whole thing right now.

Pop it in an oven-safe dish (or, if you’re really lazy, just cook the ingredients in a Dutch oven so you can put it right into the oven), sprinkle on some panko if you like the crunchy top, and bake at 300 for about 20 minutes, or whenever you can’t take the hunger pangs any longer.

Eat.  And then pat yourself on the back, because you just made mac & cheese that did not involve powdered cheese.

Staycation Day 1

I recently quit my corporate finance job and found a new job working at a smaller company.  Though I wasn’t planning on taking any time off in between (besides a short weekend trip to Seattle to see one of my best girlfriends get married), I somehow managed to score 2.5 weeks off, with one 1.5 of those weeks PAID.  Boom.

I was so excited I actually had trouble sleeping that first night after I found out that my old job was going to let me leave early.  I had so many ideas running through my head: what am I going to do at home for 2.5 weeks??  I haven’t had this much time off since college summer vacation, and since I’m trying to save $ for being an adult (wedding + house), I can’t just take a huge long vacation, although I’m tempted to just cut out any sort of wedding favors and flower decorations just so I can hang out in Costa Rica for two weeks.

A few pressing things I know I have to do:

1) Cleaning and organizing my flat.  What I’ve never liked about living in an old SF space is the lack of built-in closet space, and I’ve also never liked purchasing storage furniture.  The end result is clutter.  Not because I’m a messy person, but because there’s just no room for anything.  So I’ve decided to suck it up and just purchase some bookshelves, etc. and tidy this place up.

2) Do wedding-related things.  I am, by nature, a pretty crafty artsy person.  However, repetition is my mortal enemy, so if I have to make more than one of the same item, they start going downhill after the second one.  There’s just no quality control.  But I somehow had the brilliant idea to MAKE picture frames for our table numbers, as well as all the signage for our wedding.  My wedding may end up looking like a 6-year-old decorated everything.

3) Cook.  In fact, it would be great to experiment with something new each evening.  My poor fiance will be my official taste-tester.  If all else fails, there are Bagel Bites in the freezer.

So, expect the next few entries to be all cutesy crafty and yummy.  Hopefully the actual product will turn out fairly cool enough for me to take photos and pretend like this is a real food/craft blog, but let’s not get our expectations up that high.