Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Product Review: Budweiser & Clamato

So what's better than one Chelada?

Having one with a friend, lol

But, seriously?  This chelada thing is horrible.  Think strained Campbell's Manhattan-style Clam Chowder mixed with Budweiser.  It's really taking a lot of effort to drink this but drink I will because I don't abuse alcohol.  :P  A solid D-.  DON'T BUY

Sunday, December 27, 2009

X-Mas Eve Dinner

All right, a bunch of random stuff in here.  Christmas Eve was basically Meatfest.  For instance, this is what I had for lunch:

Food courtesy of Memphis Minnie's.  Other than the B+ sausage, the rest of the meal was uniformly awful.  Let's talk about the ribs for a second because this takes real talent.  First of all, the meat still had a deathgrip on the bone which would imply that it was undercooked, right?  However, the majority of the meat was already dry and stringy implying that it was overcooked.  I just don't get it.  Anyhow, several people had told me to avoid this joint but I just had to go see for myself.  BBQ FAIL.

In addition to the BBQ plate, we ate a ton of meat later that night.  I've been pretty obsessed with a cooking technique called "sous vide" which I'll detail in an upcoming post.  This post is dedicated to simply giving you an overview of the technique and my X-Mas Eve dinner.

Sous vide hanger steak.  One of the great things about sous vide is that it gives you a lot more control versus cooking over high heat.  For instance, say you like rare steak.  Normally, you might season it and throw it in a hot pan, right?  But notice...there is a ring of gray, overcooked meat surrounding the rare interior.  Compare this to sous vide cooking.  The temperature for rare steak is between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  All you have to do when cooking sous vide is to set your water bath at the desired temperature, drop in your steak and the steak never cooks past the preset temperature.  This technique is used in many high end kitchens but it is also very practical for home cookery.  I've sous vide cooked two hanger steaks and they've both been amazing.  For the X-Mas Eve dinner steak, I flavored it with garlic cloves, thyme and a few bay leaves.  In addition, I also added a ton of butter.  I probably went a bit overboard with the butter but you do need some fat to help carry and disperse the flavors. After you cook it in the bag (I use Ziploc brand bags...I've read that cheap plastic bags use cheap plastic.  Whether or not this is true is beyond my knowledge but I figure it's only marginally more expensive to use brand-name plastic) you need to sear the steak because it comes out sorta gray.  After that, slice and serve.
Get the flash player here:

In addition to the hanger steak, I cooked a turkey leg sous vide.  I packed the bag with all sorts of aromatics...oregano, orange peel, garlic, ginger, star anise, a few cloves etc.  Very Christmas-y.  Throw in the turkey leg (rubbed with allspice and a bit of salt) and cover with duck fat.  BAM.  Turkey leg confit.  176 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 or so hours.  When cooked, I shredded the meat and folded it into some lentils. 

Get the flash player here:

Given how heavy the rest of the meal was, I decided that a light salad was necessary.  Lots of citrus in the market this time of year so that made my choice easy.  Mint, olives, a little red onion and romaine hearts finished it off. 

Get the flash player here:

This just gives you an overview of sous vide.  I'm doing research for an upcoming post which will be more detailed but I hope this whets your appetite for more.  Hardy har har.  :)

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce

Get the flash player here:

I've made a sauce like this in the past but I decided to make David Chang's version just to check it out.  This recipe is from the Momofuku Cookbook.


2.5 cups thinly sliced scallions
.5 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
.25 cup neutral oil (I added more)
1.5 teaspoons light soy sauce (I added more)
.75 teaspoon sherry vinegar (I added more)
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season with salt to taste.  Give it 15 minutes before you serve or keep it for a couple of days in the fridge. 

I eat this stuff on just about everything.  Hot bowl of rice?  A few dollops, please.  Noodles?  Done.  Straight out of bowl?  Don't mind if I do.  Rub it on my face to maintain my youthful visage?  Guilty as charged. 

Time- Pretty much none.
Food cost-  Cheap as all get out. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scallops with Champagne Sauce

Get the flash player here:

So I am a liar.  I didn't use champagne in the sauce but a Spanish cava.  Anyhoo, back in this post, I made fish stock which is used in this scallop recipe so this is the completion of the "Budget College Cook cooks something outside of his comfort zone" experiment.  This recipe is from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.  Bourdain is sarcastic, funny and a bit of a character so it's an entertaining read.  As for the recipes, well, this is the only one I've ever made so I have no comment other than this dish tasted great!

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup of fish stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sea Scallops (Please use dry this for more info)
Clarified butter (I used olive oil)
1/2 cup Champagne (I'm using cava)
juice of 1/2 lemon (I hate instructions like this because lemons are so different...grrr)
4 chives, finely chopped

1. Melt half of the butter in a pan, add the shallots.  Cook over med-low heat until soft but not browned (I screwed up here...there is a bit of browning on my shallots).  Add the fish stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and reduce by half.  Add the cream, bring back up to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain out the shallots, season with S&P.

2. Pat the scallops dry (if necessary) season with S&P (I only seasoned with salt but added pepper after cooking...I don't like burned pepper).  Heat clarified butter (or olive oil) until it's just under smoking.  Add the scallops, cook on one side for about 3 minutes (resist the urge to move them around or peek!  Moving and peeking will result in a less caramelized crust!).  Flip the scallops over and cook on the second side for 3 minutes (your scallop will now be cooked on the exterior but slightly rare on the interior...adjust cooking time to suit your taste).  Set scallops aside.

3.  Pour off excess grease from scallop pan.  (See that nice brown stuff?  If it's too dark, clean out the pan.  If it's golden brown, GREAT!)  Return the pan to heat and pour in the sparkling beverage.  Scrape the pan to incorporate the brown bits (if they're there).  Reduce the wine until it's syrupy.  Add back the strained cream sauce.  Bring to boil and throw in that last tablespoon of butter.  Add lemon juice to taste.  Stir in chives.  Arrange scallops and sauce on a plate.  DONE!

Time- I'm not going to include the time I spent making the fish stock.  Probably about 30 minutes total here.

Food Cost-ugh.  So expensive, probably not for the college crowd although it makes an easy and impressive main course for a Valentine's Day Dinner?
Scallops- The 8 scallops I purchased cost $16.50.  Wowzers
Wine- $11.99 for the bottle (very tasty wine, would buy again.)  About two bucks worth in this dish.
Cream- $0.50
Fish stock- $2.00
Incidentals- $1.50
Total- $23.50.  I got two servings (4 scallops per person) so $11.75 per person.  Jeeeeeebus.

Last Meal: The Ulterior Epicure

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is The Ulterior Epicure, author of the eponymously named blog.  His blog is about his restaurant exploits.  However, unlike the multitude of other restaurant blogs with pretty pictures, UE is actually a good writer so stop by and read what he has to say!

1. Who would you dine with?  I don't like crowds. I prefer intimate affairs. So I'll assume I've already said the proper good-byes to everyone I've needed to. None of my family members would be in their right frame of mind, so they'd be a killjoy. I think I'd limit my last meal to no more than a party of 10 - all of my closest food-loving friends - around a big round table with no centerpieces, maybe some candles. Don't make me name you, you know who you are. If you have any doubt, you're probably not on the list.

2. Where would you dine?  I'm assuming that you're giving me carte blanche, sky's the limit? I've been blessed with many travels. I've seen and visited many places that are beyond words. But few things take my breath away like New York City's skyline. It beams with excitement, potential, hope, and magic - everything that I enjoy about life and living. I'd want my last dinner on a rooftop terrace overlooking Central Park and the city.

3. What would you eat? This is trouble. I'd like to be more thoughtful about it, but I can't. I love too many foods and am too equal opportunity about it to exclude anything I like. If you've read the book "My Last Supper" by Melanie Dunea, I'm going to ape Jacques Pepin and assemble the impossible feast, with the things that bring the biggest smile to my face. Some would be reminders of childhood; others of comforts on a bad day; and still others would massage my bourgeois tastes. Clearly, this meal would have to last all day (milking every minute of my precious life). Even if fate were mistaken, I would eat myself into oblivion anyway. I could be somewhat pretentious and lazy and rattle off specific restaurant dishes, but I'll refrain. Instead, I'll just assume that all of these foods will be prepared by experts.

Pâtés en croûte.
Fat oysters on the half shell.
Caviar, crème fraîche, red onions, blini.
Scallops, raw and served with melted seaweed butter.
Conch salad, with hot peppers, lime, tomatoes, red onions, and salt.
Steak tartare with a raw egg.
German potato salad (heavy on the diced cornichons).
Bread (extra crusty, elbows and knees only) and butter (good farmhouse, raw dairy).
Foie gras au torchon.
Deviled lambs kidneys on toast.
Grilled cheese sandwich and a shot of tomato soup.
Matzo ball soup.
Salad with candied nuts, blue cheese, and roasted beets.
Gravlax with sweet mustard and rye crackers.
Sea urchin roe on warm, short-grain rice.
Negitoro maki.
Hot borscht.
Ox tongue with sweet, grainy mustard.
Falafel, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and lots of tzatziki rolled up in warm pita.
Pasta with butter, cheese, and white truffles.
Pizza Margherita, Neapolitana-style.
Carolina pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.
Ramen noodles with pork broth.
Omelette aux herbes fines with crème fraîche and caviar.
Vegetables of all shapes and sizes gently cooked and simply tossed with buerre fine.
Glutinous rice, chicken and pork fat and shiitake mushrooms steamed in a tea leaf.
Steamed pork riblets coated with cracked glutinous rice.
Roast beef sandwich (extra bloody) with melted Brie cheese.
Boudin noir.
Dry-aged beef burger with tomato, lettuce, red onions, and blue cheese, on a whole-grain bun.
Lobster with sauce gribiche.
Soufflé de poisson.
Wild mushrooms sautéed in butter.
Oyster mushrooms drizzled with olive oil, smashed on the plancha, and dusted with sea salt.
Clam chowder with oyster crackers.
Crabs rubbed with salted egg yolk and wok stir-fried.
Scallops, pan-seared and served with a caviar cream sauce.
Oyster pan fry.
Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon.
Xiao long bao.
Tandoori chicken.
Naan roti.
Lamb rogan josh.
Char sui bao (extra fluffy, please).
Fish and chips with malt vinegar and sea salt.
Sole à la Hollandaise.
Choucroute garnie.
Stuffed pig trotters, braised.
Chinese hand-pulled noodles and beef broth.
Tacos al pastor.
Tafelspitz, boiled potatoes, carrots, and turnips, with a heap of freshly shaved horseradish.
Dol sot bi bim bop (raw egg, please).
Tarte flambée.
Popcorn (sea salt and just a touch of butter).
Tripe alla Romagna (grilled bread on the side).
Gong bao fried dofu.
Ris de vea, roasted and pan-fried.
Poulet en vessie, vin jaune cream sauce and rice.
Lièvre à la royale.
Pommes Anna with freshly shaved black truffles.
Chinese salted fish with a bowl of short-grain rice.
Palak paneer.
Filet de boeuf Chasseur (medium-rare, please).
Frites, a whole haystack of them - thin and extra crispy.
Cheese. Every cheese you could possible muster with lots of thinly-shaved and toasted bread.
Macarons (every flavor imaginable).
Sweet, fermented rice porridge.
Apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
Cherry pie with dark chocolate ice cream.
Peach pie with almond ice cream.
Blueberry pie with sour cream ice cream.
Poppy seed strudels.
Prune & Armagnac ice cream served with warm prunes macerated in Armagnac.
Strong coffee ice cream affogato (best quality, dark espresso, double shot).
Banana split with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate ice creams, pineapple, chopped peanuts, hot chocolate sauce, and maraschino cherries (hold the whipped cream).
Baba au rhum, extra boozy (hold the whipped cream).
Fruit macerated in Grand Marnier and vanilla beans.
Cannelés Bordelais (they had better be crunchy, or I'm sending them back, yes, I will be a pill about this).

UE's disclaimer: These are three age-old questions that I have never sat down to really think through. Even now, I'm sure my three answers aren't quite right. Ask me a few years down the line, and I'm sue they'll all be different.

UE, Thanks!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fish Fumet

Get the flash player here:

Don't let the fancy French fool you, fumet is just fish stock.  Classical French fish fumet is a far cry from my usual fare so what gives?  The fact of the matter is that I was sorta bored a few weeks back and decided to stretch myself as a cook.  How, exactly?  By executing a recipe totally outside of my comfort zone!  I picked a scallop recipe (I'll post it soon) which called for fish stock and, instead of buying the fish stock, made my own.  If you're at all uncomfortable around blood and/or fish carcasses, this is not a recipe for you.  I am using Thomas Keller's recipe from the Bouchon cookbook because TK is THE MAN.  I really like that he gives weight measurements for the recipe.  Volume measurements kinda suck.

In the recipe's preface, Keller points out three details which affect the final product:
  1. Fish bones-Keller specifies that the fish bones should be free from veins.  Also, an overnight soak in cold water is essential.
  2. Be sure to cook out the wine's alcohol.
  3. After the stock has simmered, let it sit for an hour so the solids settle to the bottom.  Use a ladle to scoop the stock instead of pouring it. 
 ~5 lbs of bones from halibut, bass, sole, flounder and/or other flatfish, tails, heads, any skin, and fins removed

 1 tablespoon of canola oil
4 ounces sliced (1/8 inch thick) leeks and/or leek tops
4 ounces sliced (1/8 inch thick) fennel
3 ounces sliced (1/8 inch thick) shallots
2 ounces sliced (1/8 inch thick) button mushrooms
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/4 ounces thyme sprigs
1/4 ounce Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc

1.  Cut fish bones into 3 to 4 inch pieces.  Rinse the bones under cold water and place into a pot.  (I made sure to slice open whatever veins I found and rinsed them out with water.)  Cover with ice water and soak the bones overnight.  (I didn't have much ice so I substituted an ice pack in a Ziploc bag.)  Change the water several times to remove any blood (yes, I actually did wake up in the middle of the night to change the water) until the water remains clear.

2. Heat the oil in a large stock pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the wine, to the pot.  Cook gently for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the wine and reduce the heat to medium high.

3.  Drain the fish bones and place them over the vegetables.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and steam the bones until they are opaque.  Add 2.5 quarts of water (or enough to cover the bones) and slowly bring to a simmer.  Skim any flotsam.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat.  Allow the stock to sit for an hour.  Ladle the stock through a cheesecloth lined sieve or a chinois.

5.  Freeze or keep in your fridge for a few days.  I got 7.5 cups out of this recipe and I froze mine in 1 cup baggies.

Time- A long time but most of it is inactive.  There's probably only about 30 minutes of active work here.

Food cost-
Bones- One place gave me two pounds of bones for free.  The rest I purchased for $0.99/lb.  $3.00 total
Wine-  I purchased a $9.00 half bottle (375 mL) of wine.  After the math, about 6 bucks of it went into this recipe.  You could should get a cheaper wine.
Incidentals- 5 bucks or so.
Total- $14.00.  Not exactly cost effective but you know what?  The sauce for the scallop dish was tres bien so I'm not complaining.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last Meal: Viet World Kitchen

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is Andrea, author of Viet World Kitchen.  Her blog is about Vietnamese food traditions.  I love Vietnamese food and have frequented this blog for a while now.  A few people have asked me about fish sauce so here's Andrea's post to get you started.  Go check it out!

1. Who would you dine with? As you posted on 12/5, it's hard -- who do you like to spend time with over food? I'd have to say my husband, parents, and friends Michelle and Alec. We all like food and are talkers. To dine well, you have to love to engage in conversation.

2. Where would you dine? At home. I love home cooking and you can do things up as elegant or casual as you like. I love to cook, but I'd have someone clean up after us. It is my last meal, no? Can't I be a little diva?

3. What would you eat? Vietnamese food. Lots of deep fried stuff like cha gio rolls and pair such rich foods with French champagne. A small bowl of pho and then rice with fish simmered in caramel sauce and a stir-fried vegetable. I'd be happy with that. Thinking about this makes me hungry and thirsty!

Andrea, thanks!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Garlicky Noodles with Maggi and Butter

Get the flash player here:

I really, really, REALLY want you to make this recipe.  Despite it's ease and simplicity, it's wondrously delicious.  The recipe is from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.  I've blogged a recipe from this book in the past and have made several others which haven't made it onto the blog.  All of the recipes have been great.  I highly recommend this book.  If you want to learn more about Ms. Nguyen, check out her blog!  She even has a second recipe for this noodle dish and goes into the dish's history


1/2 pound fettuccine, preferably fresh (Chinese egg noodles would be great here)
2.5 tablespoons Maggi (When I went shopping for it, I found Maggi and European Maggi...the cookbook recommends the non-European Maggi...the Asian one has a red and yellow label and the European one has a blue (I think) label)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced (or, if you're a garlic fiend, use more!)

1. Lightly salt a pot of water and bring it to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook until al dent.  (If you haven't ever cooked fresh noodles, they cook much more quickly than dry noodles...3-4 minutes and they're done.)  While the noodles are cooking, add the Maggi into a bowl large enough to hold the cooked noodles.

2. Drain the pasta but do not rinse with water.  Drop the hot noodles into the prepared bowl with the Maggi.  Toss the noodles until they've absorbed all of the seasoning.

3. In a large wok or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  When it is foamy, add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic is slightly golden.  Add the cooked, Maggi'ed noodles and toss in the butter and garlic.  They'll want to clump up so use some tongs and break them up.

4.  Turn up the heat.  Leave the noodles alone for a bit until the bottom layer browns.  Toss the noodles around and allow the new bottom layer to again brown.  Repeat the process a few more times.  The noodles aren't supposed to be crisp so don't go too far!


Time-- Very little.  15 minutes.

Food Cost: Noodles--$1.00
Total--$1.75...recipe says serves 4 as a side dish...or one hungry Budget College Cook for lunch.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last Meal: EatingAsia

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is Robyn, author of EatingAsia, a blog about "Asian food and the people who produce and cook it."  Go check it out!

1. Who would you dine with?  Nice of you to start with an easy question. Without a doubt I'd share my last meal with Dave Hagerman, my husband, collaborator, and partner in life and all things food. We generally share likes and dislikes (though, come to think of it, there's not much we don't like) so he'll be easy to feed -- he's having whatever I'm having.

2. Where would you dine?  The answer to this question changes daily, depending where I've traveled recently, what I'm writing about, what I cooked the night before, what I ate yesterday for lunch or this morning for breakfast ....

I just finished a piece on old Chinese restos in KL and so I've got old-fashioned Chinese classics on the brain at the moment. The best place for those sorts of dishes is Sek Yuen, a 60+-year-old restaurant in Kuala Lumpur with a kitchen that is still fired entirely by wood. There's no written menu but we first visited Sek Yuen 3.5 years ago and have been nearly weekly customers ever since, so we've worked our way through a good number of dishes. While we're waiting to get our order Dave's usually in the kitchen with his camera. The staff is not overtly welcoming at first, but they've become used to us and now greet us really warmly. It's a nice feeling. The food's great, but we also always leave with a good feeling that has nothing to do with what we ate.

3. What would you eat?  That's difficult -- everything there is really, truly delicious! But if I must choose -- I'd call ahead and order the babao ('8 treasure') duck, which is boned, stuffed with chopped meat, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, black mushrooms, cilantro etc., steamed for a bunch of hours and served with a fantastic gravy. It literally falls apart with a nudge, and it's so good that Dave and I almost finished a whole duck between us on one occasion (with other dishes!)

I'd also order the sweet and sour fish -- which is a whole fish with a hardly-there batter, very piquant (and no pineapple!) ,nothing at all like the dreadful versions you might find in the States. Definately something porky, bec. Sek Yuen excels at preparing the other white meat -- maybe chunks of pork seasoned with five-spice and deep-fried, or thick slices of pork belly layered with yam and steamed. A stir-fried green vegetable, bec. the kitchen does it perfectly: slightly singed in spots, crisp-tender, with lots of finely minced garlic and loads of wok hei. And yam puffs ... which are round dumplings made from mashed taro, stuffed with cubes of char siew (more pork! Chinese barbecued this time) and -- I love this -- mixed carrots, peas, and corn, the type that comes frozen. The balls are dipped in some sort of batter and arrive at the table too hot too pick up and encased in this incredibly light, lacy 'net' that dissolves on the tongue.

I would accompany all of this with a really nice bottle of red wine, a Gigondas or a Cote de Rhone heavy on the tobacco and leather.

Sek Yuen doesn't do dessert so I'd bring my own -- a pint of Haagan Daz dulce de leche to eat with steamed chocolate cake, which is pretty popular here in Malaysia. It's very moist, frosting-free, and has a not-overpowering cacao-ness that would go fantastically with the ice cream!

Thanks for participating, Robyn!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Have Fun with Cooking!

Longtime readers know that I mostly blog things from cookbooks but I often improvise with what I have on hand.  Here was a recent experiment.

I saw a fig tree a block away from where I lived.  I know that wrapping things in fig leaves is a popular way to cook fish so I figured, hey, why not?  I asked the tree's owner if I could grab some leaves and he told me to grab as many as I liked.

Now, fish wrapped in fig leaves.  Hmm.  I went to the local fishmonger and looked over options.  I settled on the ling cod because it was relatively affordable and because I've enjoyed it in the past at Commis.

I walked home and thought to myself, hmmm, what do I do with this piece of fish.   

I looked in my fridge and spied leftover harissa.  A ha!  I'll rub the fish with harissa!  I also had some leftover coconut milk so I decided to mix some harissa and coconut milk for spice paste.  Seem weird?  Not really.  In Cambodian cuisine, there is a dish called amok trey.  It's basically a fragrant curry paste mixed with coconut milk which is rubbed on fish.  The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves and the banana leaf packages are then steamed.  I figured chili paste (harissa) and coconut milk is similar enough to the Cambodian original so no biggie deals.  Done.

From here, it was easy.  I put some thinly sliced red onion underneath the fish and some very thinly sliced Meyer lemon slices on top of it.  Wrap fish in fig leaves and bake (initially, I figured 375 degrees for 15 minutes would be sufficient but that seemed a little underdone so I threw it back in for another 5 minutes.  At that point, the fish was a little over done.  Ooops.).  I served it with leftover hummus and some oil cured black olives.


Anyhow, things here at the Budget College Cook aren't always perfect...witness my undercooked and then overcooked fish but who cares?  The end result was still totally delicious.  I've always thought that cooking should be fun.  Sure, mistakes will be made but it's just food.  The Food Network mentality of perfect food everytime is poisoning our minds.  It's an unrealistic expectation which keeps Average Joes out of the kitchen.  Real people (and even professional chefs) screw things up but, most of the time, even the mistakes are edible.  Just smile, move on, and please don't let failure prevent you from trying again.  It sure hasn't stopped me over these past few years.  :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Get the flash player here:

Harissa is a North African sauce/condiment/seasoning most commonly associated with Moroccan food.  I looked through my cookbooks, found 3 recipes and they're all fairly different.  Sure, they all seem to use dried red peppers, coriander seed, oil and garlic but, after that, it's wide open.  Caraway, bell peppers, mint, cumin, lemon, it's pretty wild. 

This is Marcus Samuelsson's recipe from The Soul of a New Cuisine.  I've discussed the book in the past.  If you want to read those posts, click here.   

3/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground caraway
1 cup mild chili powder (I was skeptical about using chili powder but it makes a lot of sense if you think about it...chili powder already has ground cumin, onion powder, garlic etc in it...saves you a step, imo)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped mint

1.  Heat oil in a small pan.  When oil shimmers, add garlic and saute until golden.  (This step takes a few minutes so be patient.)

2.  Turn off heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Let cool.  Store in refrigerator for  up to 2 weeks.

So whaddya do with this stuff?  So far, I've used it as a rub for lamb and for fish.  I also introduced some hummus into my standard hummus recipe.  I'm going to spend the majority of the next two weeks cooking Moroccan/North African food so we'll see where else I go with this stuff. 

Time- 5 minutes, if even that much.

Food Cost- More than I would've liked. 
Chili Powder- $3.79
Caraway Seeds- ~$0.20
Incidentals- About a buck? 
Total- $5.00.  Servings--unknown.  Alot.  You'll probably have more than you can use.  I probably should've made a half recipe.  Next time.  :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Last Meal: kevinEats

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is kevinEats, author of the popular foodie blog kevinEats

1. Who would you dine with?  Three of my friends: Eric, Minh, Ryan. They were who I dined with when I first started getting interested in gastronomy. Without their support, I doubt that my passion for food would've developed as it did.

2. Where would the meal take place?  Urasawa, arguably my favorite restaurant. Imagine a 35-course extravaganza of Japanese delights, an intimate, personal experience that transcends a mere meal, exposing you to the very heart and soul of the chef, Hiro-san. A meal takes five hours, but if it's my last, I'd take my sweet time!

3. What would you eat?  I'd have to leave it up to Hiro-san, though I'd probably request extra servings of toro, wagyu, and matsutake (if it's in season). To wash it all down, we'd have the finest sakes and Champagnes, of course.

Thanks for participating, Kevin!  All the best in your future restaurant exploits!

To see all of the posts in this series, go to the label cloud on the right and click on "Last Meal."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Get the flash player here:

Have you ever owned a cookbook which you compulsively reached for?  A book which took your taste imagination on a never ending journey?  For me, The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson, is that book although it is far from perfect.  (For those who don't know, this book focuses on African food and the New World countries populated by ex-Africans during the slave trade.)  The writing kinda sucks, the pictures don't always match the recipes and the scope of the book is too broad to serve as a reference book but man, these recipes.  I love 'em so let me tell you why:
  1. Chile peppers are frequently used in African cuisine and if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you already know that I love spicy food.
  2. Liberally spiced recipes.  Much like Indian food, African food seems to be built on layers of spices.  This philosophy appeals to me
  3. Lots of condiments and sauces.  I like dipping food into sauces...think Indian food and chutneys and you get the gist of it.  African food seems to share this idea of little taste enhancers.  In addition, the book contains recipes for interesting spice blends. 
The book also intrigues because of Samuelsson's heritage.  As I explained back in this post, Samuelsson was raised in Scandinavia but of Ethiopian heritage so his book represents an effort to get in touch with his roots.  It's obviously extremely personal to Chef Samuelsson although it's a shame that so little of his passion comes through in the writing.  Finally, it seems like only two African cuisines have made it to the United States: Ethiopian and Moroccan.  It's nice to see some material on what the rest of the continent eats and, given my experience, they eat well so let's get to this recipe.

First, a note on callaloo.  There is no definitive recipe for callaloo.  Much like other beloved ethnic foods, there are as many recipes for callaloo as there are cooks.  However, 15 minutes of Googling research have turned up a few commonalities.
  1. Dasheen aka taro leaves and onions.  I didn't feel like trekking to Chinatown to get taro leaves so I used a mix of mustard greens, kale and collard greens.  The cookbook recommends spinach.
  2. Some sort of pork product.
  3. Okra
  4. Chili peppers.
This version focuses on the Trinidadian version.  Callaloo is sometimes eaten as a soup but is just as often used as a thick condiment.  Either way, it's crazy delicious and very, very easy to make.  Please please please please please please give this a try.


2 tablespoons oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 bird's-eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (I couldn't find these chiles in my 'hood so I substituted 2 whole, chopped serrano chiles...very mild heat, I will probably add a third serrano next time)
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons coriander seeds (I will grind the coriander seed next time...the blender didn't do a good enough job pulverizing the seeds)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup bottled clam juice (I see you raising your eyebrows...I was equally skeptical but just roll with it...think of the clam juice as a substitute for crab meat which is a common addition to callaloo...I found clam juice at my local grocery store)
1 cup heavy cream (You could probably add another cup of coconut milk if you are lactose intolerant)
Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach (I used 1 16 oz. bag of mixed, chopped collards, mustard greens and kale from Trader Joe's...definitely one of the best things they sell)
Juice of 3 limes

1. Heat oil in a large pot.  When shimmering, add the onion, garlic and chiles and saute until the onion is soft and translucent.

2. Add the cumin, coriander, chicken stock, coconut milk, clam juice and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

3. Add the spinach and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until spinach is cooked.  (If using the bag of Trader Joe's greens, or if you are using other hearty leafy green, I recommend simmering the cumin, coriander, chicken stock etc. for 15 minutes, throw in the greens and simmer until the greens are mostly took me roughly 45 minutes)

4. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches if necessary (definitely necessary), and puree.  (Please exercise caution when blending hot ingredients.)  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice.  Serve hot. 

(Next time, I will add even MORE greens.  I was dubious that this amount of liquid would support such a large quantity of veggies but I was dead wrong.  In addition, more greens equals a more vibrant color.  Hmmm, I can't think of a reason why you couldn't use broccoli in this recipe in place of the greens.  Both are from the brassica family, right?  Hmmm, the wheels in my mind are spinning...)

Time: An hour, almost all of it inactive cooking time.

Food cost:
Clam juice- $3.15
Chicken broth-~$2.50
Greens- $2.29
Cream- $1.99
Coconut milk- $1.39
Incidentals- Maybe $1.00?
Total- $12.32.  If you serve this as soup you'll probably get 4 large bowls so ~$3.00 per bowl.  I've been using it as sauce over hot rice...probably 6 servings...~$2.00 per bowl.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hold On, Little Dude

Look what I found on today's exploratory walk of Oakland:

I know nothing about botany but is that the last strawberry of the year?  Only 4 more months of cold weather!  Hold on, spring is right around the corner...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Last Meal: Mine

Just now, I got the idea to start a series of posts on last meals. That is, if you could control who, what and where you ate your final bite, what would you choose? Somewhat creepy, I know, but I think it's interesting because it cuts to the core of who you are. Here's what I'm all about:

Who: Very tough. A huge part of me wants to include my parents but this is my last meal. I want it to be fun and my parents just aren't all that cool. Ideally, I'd have a penultimate meal with mom and dad and then a bash with my friends. So, final meal, my brothers and close friends. You know who you are.

What: My mom's fried chicken by the bucketful. This was what I always requested for my birthday celebrations. It's magically good...chicken marinated overnight in garlic salt, sesame oil, crushed ginger, crushed scallions, white fragrant and delicious. Coat in some seasoned flour and fry until golden brown. There would also be white rice (I LOVE to make sushi rolls with fried chicken skin and rice) and simple stir-fried Chinese greens. Lots of beer and gin & tonics.

Where: The beach. I love the waves. Very soothing.

There it is. I'm a humble man.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guest Post: Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic and Hot Pepper

Get the flash player here:

I just put on a t-shirt. Not only did I put it on inside-out but I also managed to put it on backwards. Maybe I'm not in the best state of mind to write a blog post?

Whatever. This is another of my brother's pastas from my recent trip to St. Louis. For the past 2 years, he's been raving about how great it is and how I really need to make it. He even took pictures of the recipe and e-mailed it to me. However, my near constant obsession with Asian food got in the way and I never got around to it. James decided to chef it up for me so here we go. This recipe is taken from the previously recommended Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.

P.S. I keep hot sauce on my desk the way most people keep pens and pencils. Just thought I'd share.


1 lb fresh bay or deep sea scallops (my brother swears by the bay scallops, says they're much better than the sea scallops for this recipe)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic chopped very fine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Red chili flake to taste
1 lb pasta (cookbook recommends spaghettini or spaghetti)
1/2 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs, lightly toasted in oven or in a skillet

1. Rinse scallops and pat dry. If using bay scallops, leave as is. If using sea scallops, cut into 3/8 inch thick slices.

2. Put olive oil and garlic in a large pan, turn heat to medium and cook until garlic is colored a light gold. Add parsley and hot pepper, stir and toss in scallops and salt to taste. Turn heat to high and cook until scallops turn white. Taste and add additional salt or red pepper if needed. The cookbook points out that if the scallops shed a lot of liquid, remove them from the pan and boil down the water juices and then add the scallops back into the pan.

3. Toss the scallop sauce with the cooked pasta, add bread crumbs, toss again and eat!

Thanks, James! Really tasty and much, much better than the shaking beef stew. :)