Tag Archives: sidedish

japchae: yummy korean noodles

13 Apr

Whenever I start a new job, my biggest concern is food. Feeding times. Snacks. Packing lunches. How my hours will affect weeknight dinner plans. What can I say, I’m a primate and I gotta EAT!

As an adieu to the fancy weeknight cooking I’ve become accustomed to working from home for the past year, I whipped up one fabulous weeknight “last supper” — Chinese-style steamed halibut, sauteed pea shoots, sukjunamul, and a Korean-style noodle dish called japchae.

This kind of Chinese-Korean hodgepodge meal is my favorite, probably because I am a hodgepodge of these ethnicities myself. Add a couple sides of kimchi or sashimi, and you’ll find me clapping with excitement.

I had never attempted japchae before, but it seemed pretty straightforward — sweet potato noodles, veggies, and some beef. I happened to have a scattering of leftover veggies and beef from Shabu Sunday (a new tradition), so this recipe also helped clean out the fridge!

japchae: korean noodles
chewy happy food

* 8 ounces sweet potato noodles
* 1/2 bunch spinach (about 4 ounces), rinsed and trimmed
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 6 ounces beef rib-eye, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips
* 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1/4 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
* 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
* 1 carrot, julienned
* 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths, whites halved and separated
* 1/4 cup sugar (I used agave nectar to avoid dissolving issues)
* Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the sweet potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Be sure not to overcook the noodles, or they will lose their chewy texture. If you like, cut the noodles with scissors into 6- to 7-inch lengths for easier eating.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water. Rinse immediately under cold water, squeeze the water from the leaves and form into a ball, and then cut the ball in half. Combine the spinach, half the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors soak in.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, the remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Stir-fry until the beef is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms, and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and stir-fry for another minute. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the noodles, beef mixture, spinach, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and the sugar. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Serves 4 to 5 as a side dish. Adapted from Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.

zuni’s roast chicken with bread salad

9 Mar

I’m a chicken hater. Correction — was a chicken hater. It’s been about six years since I last touched a piece of raw chicken. My aversion to fowl began on the job, when I worked for an ad agency making TV commercials for a chicken farm. Let’s just say I was forced to watch one too many PETA videos during a lunch meeting where I was served a lukewarm chicken breast.

Slowly but surely, I’ve been coming around to the idea of cooking my winged friends once again. For my first endeavor, Zuni Cafe’s famous Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. It’s an epic recipe spanning two days and 1,200 words. Go big or go home, right?

I procured a 3.5 lb organic bird, herbs, Acme bread, arugula and zante currants from the new Haight Street Whole Foods store, which by the way, is the most questionably placed location. I won’t lie, Day 1 of the recipe was tough. I gagged a bit while shoving my fingers between skin and breast forming seasoning pockets for the herbs. I also plucked a few unsavory stray feathers.

Day 2 was all about the bread salad. That thing was a pain in the ass, but worth every step in the end. I had to draw myself a chronological checklist to organize the process (see below the recipe). In my opinion, the bread salad upstaged the bird itself, though J assured me the chicken was a succulent masterpiece of its own.

All in all, it was a highly successful reentry. Kudos to Zuni for the epic recipe.

Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook (via the Today Show)

For the chicken:
* One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
* 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
* Salt
* About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
* A little water

For the salad:
* Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
* 6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
* 1-1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
* Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
* 1 tablespoon dried currants
* 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or as needed
* 1 tablespoon warm water
* 2 tablespoons pine nuts
* 2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
* 1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
* 2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
* A few handfuls of arugula, frisée, or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried

Seasoning the chicken (Can be done 1 to 3 days before serving; for 3-1/4- to 3-1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days)

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough-a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper {we use ¾ teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken}. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Starting the bread salad (Can be done up to several hours in advance)

Preheat the broiler.

Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust. Reserve the top and side crusts to use as croutons in salads or soups. Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread chunks over and crisp the other side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits, and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.

Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.

Roasting the chicken and assembling the salad

Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking by 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Place the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the hot oven for a minute or two, just to warm though. Add them to the bowl of bread.

Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again. Taste a few pieces of bread-a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well. Since the basic character of the bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential.

Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time.

Finishing and serving the chicken and bread salad

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes of so.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting oven, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.

Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful.

Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter, and nestle the chicken in the salad.

Checklist for Day 2:

Broil bread
Mix vinaigrette
Dress salad
Soak currants

Preheat oven
Warm pan
Put in chicken
Warm pine nuts, add to salad

Wash and dry arugula
Saute garlic and onion
Add currants and stock to salad

Flip chicken
Put salad in oven
Flip chicken

Rest chicken
Swirl drippings
Add drippings to salad
Add arugula
Add vinaigrette

old school chi-neez

8 Dec

When I was a kid, my Chinese grandpa would feed me dried scallops as an afternoon snack. He insisted these stinky salty golden disks that peeled apart like string cheese were actually sections of dried rattlesnake. I went around telling friends at school that I ate rattlesnake, which naturally made me super cool and popular.

In my Thanksgiving post, I mentioned my friend N made a delicious savory Chinese sticky rice flavored with an abundance of dried scallops. Recently, I decided to try my hand at making this Chinese specialty, just to see how tough it would be.

Surprisingly, once ingredients were gathered, it was just a matter of 3 hours of soaking time, plus 1 hour of mostly non-supervised cook time. Okay, so it’s 20 times longer to make than a stir-fry, but that’s what makes it old school Chinese!

chinese sticky rice with dried scallops, sausage and mushrooms
a fancy rice to fancy

* 3 cups short-grain “sweet” rice
* 1/4 cup dried scallops
* 1 cup Chinese dried black mushrooms or dried shiitake mushrooms
* 5 Chinese sausages, sliced 1/4″ thin on the diagonal
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1/3 cup medium-dry cooking sherry
* 4 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
* 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
* 2 cups reserved scallop and mushroom liquid or reduced-sodium chicken broth
* Thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Rinse and soak rice in cold water at least 3 hours. Drain and let dry thoroughly.

Soak scallops and mushrooms in separate bowls of warm water for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms and scallops reserving liquid for later. Rinse mushrooms to remove any grit, then discard stems and coarsely chop caps. Shred scallops.

Heat a saute pan over high heat. Add sausage and stir-fry 1 minute, then add vegetable oil to coat the pan. Add mushrooms and scallops and stir-fry 1 minute. Add drained rice and stir to coat (rice should look shiny with oil). Stir in sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper and stir-fry for a couple more minutes on medium head, adding a little of the reserved scallop liquid if rice begins to stick to pan.

Transfer mixture to rice cooker and add the remaining 2 cups of reserved scallop and mushroom liquid (or chicken broth). Cook on normal rice setting. If using a pot, bring rice to a simmer, stir once, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook 25 minutes more, then remove from heat.

Once rice cooker finishes cooking cycle, stir rice from bottom to redistribute ingredients and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before serving with green onion garnish.

Serves 8.

rainy day luau

4 Nov

We hadn’t planned on pouring rain all weekend. Then again, who thinks to throw a luau in October?! It was, however, Mo and Fred’s birthdays, so we had ample reason to celebrate island style. Roasted pig, lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, ahi poke, haupia, malasadas, halo halo, plus macaroni salad and Spam musubi to round it all out!

Growing up, my grandpa would cook up an entire Hawaiian feast on his own complete with tako poke made with octopus he had speared himself. My aunts, uncles and cousins would come over and we’d break out the compartmentalized paper plates to load up on the onolicious spread.

My absolute favorite luau dish is and always has been lomi lomi salmon. In Hawaiian, lomi lomi means “to massage,” which refers to the hand-mixing of salty raw salmon with tomatoes, sweet onions and crushed ice (to dilute the saltiness of the dish). I like to heap lomi lomi salmon over my entire plate, where it can mingle its oceanic juices into the kalua pig and rice.

lomi lomi salmon
like ocean in your mouth

1/2 lb fresh salmon
5 tomatoes, diced into small cubes (salsa-sized)
1 medium sweet onion, diced into small cubes
8 green onion stalks, diced
1 cup crushed ice
Hawaiian salt

Salt salmon heavily (coat it) and chill in fridge overnight. Rinse salmon the next day and dice into small cubes. Combine salmon with tomatoes and onions; mix by hand until well incorporated. Chill thoroughly. Add ice just before serving.

Serves 6 as a side.

the great indoors: zucchini with mint and red pepper

11 Aug

While running on Lake Street this evening, I passed by a couple tending to their petite sidewalk garden. The white-haired man wore a khaki vest with too many pockets and posed quite contently with a hose in-hand over his trough of flowers.

It reminded me of my grandpa and how he’d spend hours every afternoon watering the yard — the front yard, the back yard, the court yard, the orchids, the vegetables, the strawberries, the ferns, the protea, the bonsais, the cacti, even the ditch (an old irrigation ditch we grew marigolds in). I never thought of it as odd, but that was a serious amount of time spent on plants!

How much time do I spend on plants? Only as long as it takes me to cook them. Someday when I live in a city that actually experiences summer, I will have a garden and spend ridiculous hours tending to my plants. Until then, I will celebrate summer from the great indoors.

zucchini with mint and red pepper
grill pan makin’ it happen… real grill, even better!

* 5 medium-sized zucchini
* 1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half
* 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* a dozen large mint leaves, finely sliced
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like)
* salt & pepper

Preheat your grill to medium.

Cut each zucchini in half crosswise and then cut each half into 1/8″ planks. In a very large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Lay the zucchini on the grill and cook for about four minutes per side, keeping the heat moderate so you’re sweating them and not really giving them a ton of color. Turn the heat up to high and grill for about a minute more on each side to mark them. Depending on the size of your grill, this may need to be done in batches.

Remove the zucchini to a large platter. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with the vinegar, mint and red pepper flakes. Drizzle this over the zucchini, being sure to evenly distribute the pepper flakes, sprinkle with salt & pepper.

a year in food

28 Jun

52 weeks ago, a couple of trailblazing cooks launched a website called food52. The first of its kind, food52’s aim was to create a completely crowd-sourced cookbook within the span of a year.

Each week, the internet universe was invited to submit their best recipe for the proposed ingredient, dish or theme — for example Your Best Beets, Your Best Caesar Salad, or Your Best Use of Lemon, Thyme and a Grill. Amanda and Merrill (of NYT fame) would then shuffle through the entries, test them, and post two finalists for readers to vote on. All winning recipes will soon be published as a hardback cookbook.

As you can imagine, I’ve been quietly stalking this website all year trying out recipes here and there. I just love it when people figure out neat ways to adapt technology to make the old new again. Some of my most cherished cookbooks (I own over thirty) are spiral bound, single print run collections put together by a bunch of moms for a school or church fundraiser. The magic of food52 is that it captures this sense of “community’s best” on a grand and gourmet scale.

Of the dishes I’ve tried out over the past year, I think this simple recipe for Your Best Broccoli was an unexpectedly delicious surprise. Try it! Don’t worry, it tastes a million times better than my sad photo.

Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli

* 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 anchovy fillets
* a splash of white wine
* a big squeeze of lemon, preferably Meyer
* Parmesan cheese, for dusting
* 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
* salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Arrange broccoli florets on a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes and remove.

In a small skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and saute for about three minutes. Add wine and lemon and allow to reduce for a minute or two. Season with black pepper if desired.

Meantime, in another small skillet over medium heat, toast almonds until they are lightly browned, taking care not to burn them.

Drizzle sauce and sprinkle almonds and parmesan cheese over broccoli, then serve. Or, dip the broccoli in the sauce at the table.

carrots with bacon, rosemary and honey

20 Jun

In my ideal world, Sundays revolve around the preparation of a huge meal, preferably consumed outdoors in the leisurely company of family. This Sunday got me feeling particularly sentimental, today being Father’s Day. “Everyone else” (at least according to my Facebook news feed) was busy having the ‘best father’s day, ever’ prancing about in parks and on serene shorelines. For the rest of us, there’s comfort in a great Sunday supper of a perfectly cooked steak with dressed-up side of carrots.

carrots with bacon, rosemary and honey
a brilliant sidedish adapted from Epicurious

* 2 slices bacon, diced
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound carrots (about 4 large), peeled, cut into diagonal chunks
* Coarse kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
* 1 tablespoon honey

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon until almost browned. Add carrots. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to brown at edges, about 12 minutes.

Add butter, rosemary, and honey to vegetables. Toss over medium heat until heated through and vegetables are glazed, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.