Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bon Appetit!

Thank you! I started this blog two years ago, the same month I quit my full time job at Microsoft to be a stay at home mom. I love cooking and I needed a hobby as I am a person who really needs to stay busy, less I start bouncing off the walls. I am finally fully settled into this stay at home gig; a friend told me it would take two years and she was right.

In two years...

I've learned what I know about cooking (a lot!) and what I don't know (a lot more!). I received some great comments and emails from my readers and feedback from friends.  I realized that salad really is my all time favorite food. I was sent a very interesting cookbook from a publisher that I still haven't cooked from as the recipes all take three days.

My kids are my customers in the kitchen and I have become increasingly suspicious that my daughter was secretly swapped with a baby of French descent. She asks me for fresh mint leaves in her (freshly squeezed only please) lemonade. She loves brie and all sorts of stinky cheeses that would make some people faint. She loves braised meats and beans. Ranch dressing and sandwiches? Definitely not her thing but some of my son's favorite foods.

I have realized that as much as I love cooking, my favorite part is seeing the people I love enjoy the food I make.

I will keep cooking but I am hanging up my culinary blogging hat and just wanted to write a short note to you, my readers, to thank you for reading my blog. I enjoyed writing this blog but it is no longer where I want to spend my time. I wish you all well on your own culinary adventures and thanks again for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Corn and Jerusalem Artichoke Tacos with Cabbage Slaw


Sometimes I walk around the produce section and pick up something that is new to my kitchen -- and even more exciting -- that I don't really recognize. I purchase a small quantity, take it home and figure out what to do with it.

Jerusalem artichokes have been hanging around my kitchen for a while now though so they aren't in the unknown category anymore but this was a new way to cook them that I felt pretty happy about.

If you haven't seen one before, they look similar to an overgrown ginger root, knobby and brown with a white interior (usually). They have some similarities to potatoes in texture but with a slightly more prominent flavor that is nutty and sweet at the same time. With those similarities in mind I thought they might make a nice taco filling.

I usually peel jerusalem artichokes though I have read that you don't necessarly need to (another thing to try!). They can be eaten raw or cooked, you could put them slaw or a salad or make a soup out of them as well.

I could also see mixing some poblanos and creme fraiche into this recipe for a creamy taco filling alternative, the idea derived from this recipe from Rick Bayless.

Corn and Jerusalem Artichoke Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
Yields 8 tacos

1 pound jerusalem artichokes, peeled, sliced thin and cut into strips (~1/2 inch wide)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh is great! frozen or canned is fine too)
2 T olive oil
(scant) 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

1 cup green cabbage, washed and thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, washed and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, washed and grated
a small handful of cilantro, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp honey
2 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

8 corn tortillas
sour cream (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheddar or crumbled queso fresco (optional)

(If you wish to warm your tortillas in the oven, pre-heat it to 250 degrees.)

Make the Cabbage Slaw:

Mix the green and red cabbages in a bowl with the carrot and cilantro.

In a small saucepan, heat the red wine vinegar and honey, stirring, just until the honey melts. Add to the bowl of cabbages along with some salt and pepper, toss well and set aside.

Make the filling:
In a large skillet, heat the 2 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the jerusalem artichokes, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir and let cook until the jerusalem artichoke starts to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the corn, stir again and cook until the filling is browned and cooked through, a couple of minutes more.

Warm the tortillas:

Heat the corn tortillas. I usually warm my tortillas on a dry skillet and wrap them in a towel to keep them warm (while I warm the remaining tortillas). Alternatively, you could wrap them in a towel and pop the in the oven until they are warmed through.

Put it together:

To serve, put a heaping spoonful of filling on each tortilla and top with the slaw, (optional) cheese and (optional) sour cream.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with fruit or for a more substantial meal, beans and rice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rice Noodle Salad

I get out with some girlfriends pretty regularly and we recently went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle called Tamarind Tree. I have been there several times before and my husband and I take our kids out for Vietnamese pretty regularly. I love the fresh versus cooked contrasts that Vietnamese seems to frequently feature. The fresh basil and cilantro with roasted peanuts. The sliced cucumbers and grilled meat. The Rice Noodle Salad bowl with its hot grilled meat and fresh lettuce.

One of the ladies in our group is Vietnamese and Tamarind Tree is her favorite spot so we asked her to order and she picked some things I had never tried. And to be honest, I am not sure I ever would have ordered them on my own. She described it as something that one might make at home (an easy home-cooked Vietnamese meal) which I will have to investigate and report back here. A soup with pineapple, bean sprouts, fresh tomato and seafood. As an accompaniment she ordered a braised fish pot, which sounds potentially redundant but trust me (or my friend actually), she knew what she was doing. It was an amazing combination.

At home the primary Vietnamese dish I make is a rice noodle bowl. It is a flexible dish and has so many things going for it. It is pretty healthy with a pile of lettuce in the bottom, cucumbers, carrots, some rice noodles and grilled meat, spring rolls and/or meatballs with a flavorful sauce poured over the top. It would be easy to turn it into a vegetarian dish by adding some fried tofu or using vegetarian spring rolls. If you need the sauce to be vegetarian, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce. It is also great with kids as they can make their own bowls putting in the veggies they are wiling to eat. My son ate two big bowls of this last night.

Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 4

steak:

1.5 lb flank steak
3 T vegetable oil
2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and chopped
5 T garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 T fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar

sauce:

1 cup water
3 T fish sauce (or soy sauce, if you want vegetarian)
4 T lime juice
3 T sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

noodles and vegetables:

8 ounces rice noodles
1/2 head of lettuce, shredded and washed
2 carrots, washed, peeled and grated
1 cucumber, cut lengthwise and sliced (peeled if it has that waxy exterior)
small handful of cilantro, washed
small handful of basil, washed and julienned

shrimp:

1/2 pound shrimp
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the flank steak in a low flat dish. Put the vegetable oil, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and brown sugar in a food processor and puree until it forms a paste. Rub it into the flank steak and set aside. Let it sit for an hour if you have the time.

In a bowl, mix the water, fish sauce (or soy sauce), lime juice, red pepper flakes, sugar and garlic until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Cook the noodles, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. If they are really long you can cut them up with some scissors.

Heat a grill to medium high heat. Grill the steak until it is charred on the outside and lightly pink on the interior. Let sit for ten minutes and then slice thinly.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until it starts to brown and then transfer to a bowl.

Put it together:

Place a handful of lettuce in the bottom of a bowl, pile rice noodles on top, add a handful of cucumbers and carrots. Place some meat and shrimp on top and sprinkle with basil and cilantro. Spoon some of the sauce over the top and serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese


We have been having some sunny days here in Seattle which is always cause for celebration. No, it doesn't really rain all year round. Yes, it really does rain a lot. Yes, you do get used to it. I love the rain but the grey sky does get hard after a while so a bit of spring sunshine is always welcome.

In celebration of the sunny weather we marinated and grilled flank steak, served with sour cream parsley sauce. For sides we had grilled romaine salad and potato gratin. Grilled flank steak and potato gratin go well together but gratin is a stand up dish that can be served by itself with a simple green salad to make a satisfying (vegetarian) meal.

I was looking for a quick weeknight gratin and found it in Gourmet's cookbook but despite the impressive variety of cheese in my fridge, there was no Gruyere. In the interest of getting my kids to eat it, I went with a simple white cheddar from Beechers instead of something more exotic and the results were great. I cooked this gratin first on the stove and then in a 400 degree oven which speeds up the cooking time. Instead of transferring the contents to a buttered dish, I cooked the whole thing in a cast iron skillet. Less things to clean plus I love my cast iron skillet(s).

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese
Serves 4 - 6

3 russett potatoes (between 1.5 and 2 pounds total)
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups of half and half
3/4 cups grated white cheddar
salt and pepper
1 T butter

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice them as thinly as you can (or you can use a mandoline).

Grease your skillet with the 1 T of butter and leave the remaining butter in the pan. Put the pan over medium heat and let the butter melt and begin to bubble. Add one layer of potatoes and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat until all the potatoes are in the pan.

Sprinkle the freshly ground nutmeg over the potatoes. Pour 2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2 over the potatoes. The liquid should come up to just below the height of the top layer of potatoes. If needed, add the additional 1/2 cup of milk to bring it up to the right level.

Turn the heat up on the stove and bring the dish to a boil. Sprinkle the cheese on top, transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are soft.

Serving Suggestion:
Add a green salad for a simple vegetarian meal.
Add a salad and grilled flank steak for you meat lovers.